Milwaukee Woman Scams Bankruptcy Filers

  
     
July 12, 2011
July 12, 2011, Milwaukee, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau (BBB) is issuing an alert to consumers about a woman that has been charging money for preparing bankruptcy paperwork, despite being prohibited by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to do so.  

In October 2010, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court prohibited Dawn Gomez Bess from filing any future bankruptcy cases as a petition preparer in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. However, she has continued to do so and has not appeared in two court proceedings against her. Currently, her case has been referred to District Court for consideration of whether sanctions should be imposed for criminal contempt.

Bess is not a licensed attorney, although being a licensed attorney is not required to file bankruptcy paperwork. However, the U. S. Bankruptcy Court says she is giving legal advice to potential debtors, which is a violation of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code section 110 (e) 2(A). Other violations include: Failure to sign the document and print her name and address as required by section 110 (b) (1), Failure to include her social security number as required by section 110 (c) (1), and Committing acts found to be fraudulent, unfair and deceptive pursuant to section 110 (i) (1). She faces thousands of dollars in fines.

Bess has been doing business under various names including “The Preparers” and “Fresh Start”. Despite not being a licensed attorney, her company offers “bill reorganization, marriages, mediation, divorces, chapter 128 bankruptcy, power of attorney, wills and living wills”, according to the recorded message on Fresh Start’s telephone answering machine.

Fresh Start has an “F” rating with the Wisconsin BBB, the lowest rating given. The BBB has received eight complaints against the company, six of which have been processed since late May 2011. The most recent complaint was received Monday, July 11 and is pending. To date, all of the complaints have gone unanswered.

According to complainants, they answered ads placed in local, free publications distributed in area businesses. They state they paid between $125 and $180 in cash for bankruptcy paperwork preparation but either did not receive the prepared paperwork or the paperwork was later denied by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court due to “poor quality.”

“Dawn Bess took money from vulnerable people who did not have money to lose,” said Randall Hoth, Wisconsin BBB president/CEO.  “These consumers were promised a service which was not delivered.”

Alonzo Y. of Milwaukee paid $180 in cash and was told paperwork to assist him in filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy could be completed by the next day.  “As of now, 5/28/11, I don’t have the paper(s) nor my money. She has not tried to call and I went to the office four times.”

Natasha B. of Milwaukee paid $125 for preparation of paperwork for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  She received her paperwork and submitted it to the Court, but received a letter two weeks later stating she failed to turn in paperwork pertaining to mandatory credit counseling.

“I was constantly on the phone with The Preparers asking them to get this taken care of,” she wrote in her BBB complaint. “They kept telling me not to worry and that they would take care of it.  They never did, my case was dismissed.”

The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to always check on a company at www.bbb.org before doing business.

In addition, if you are considering filing for personal bankruptcy, consult with a bankruptcy attorney. If you do not have an attorney, you may visit the Court’s website, www.wieb.uscourts.gov  (Bankruptcy Help Desk) or contact the State Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 1-800-362-9082 or http://www.legalexplorer.com/lawyer/lawyer-talk.asp

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), (920)-734-4352 (Appleton), (608) 268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).