Monday, July 1, 2024

Bankruptcy: Dischargeability of Debts - False Pretenses

In the case of Slonim v. Marineau the United States District Court confirmed a Bankruptcy Code ruling that a debt was non-dischargeable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A), as it was obtained by false pretenses. The Bankruptcy Court had made a factual finding that the debtor's loan agreement with the creditor, who was an individual investor, provided that the $90,000.00 loaned by the creditor would be used to construct pre-sold homes in Albermarle and Greene Counties, but instead the debtor had used the loan to pay personal expenses.

The debtor had argued that his statements did not "qualify" as misrepresentations under Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A) because the statements concerned future performance. Most courts, however, have held that when such statements are accompanied by the present intention not to perform as promised. The statement of present intention at issue in this case involved the use to which the debtor would put the money. The Court ruled that where money is entrusted to a debtor for a specific purpose, the debtor impliedly represents that it will be used for that specific purpose constitutes a misrepresentation of the debtor's intention.

The debtor's own testimony established that he never intended to use the funds for that purpose. He testified at trial that he always intended to use the loan to reimburse himself and his partner for expenses incurred in building the house for the partner. Thus, the debtor's representation that the money would be used for a specific purpose was knowingly false when he made it. Furthermore, his intent to deceive could be inferred from his immediate depletion of the funds and statements aimed at making the investor believe that there was less risk involved than which truly existed. Accordingly, the debt was ruled non-dischargeable pursuant to Bankruptcy Code §523(a)(2)(A).

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