Did you Watch Tiger King? Here’s What Made Santa Rosa Bankruptcy Lawyers’ Cringe!

Many people thinking about filing bankruptcy in Santa Rosa wonder if they should put their cars or house into somebody else’s name to hide them from their credit card companies and other creditors. This is a lesson in what not to do in this situation.

Like many people, I recently binged watched the new docuseries on Netflix, Tiger King. For those who haven’t watched it, it’s about an eccentric man who calls himself “Joe Exotic” and his Big Cat zoo in Oklahoma. Joe had a lengthy ongoing feud with a prominent animal rights activist named, Carole, who ran a Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary in Florida. To try to divert website traffic from Carole’s Big Cat Sanctuary’s site, Joe set up his own website. He copied Carole’s business name, “Big Cat Rescue,” calling his “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.”  Not surprisingly, Carole sued Joe for trademark and copyright infringement.

With the cameras rolling, Joe Exotic revealed the lawsuit against him, and proudly proclaimed “but I’m not stupid.” He explained nothing he had was in his name.  My heart sank. As a Santa Rosa bankruptcy lawyer, I knew what was coming next. Joe explained he transferred his assets into his husband’s name and into his parents’ names. A couple of scenes later, Joe Exotic’s elderly parents are crying because the Feds were prosecuting them and they were at risk of losing their home to Joe’s creditors. All-the-while, Joe’s poor parents continued to profess their sons’ innocence.  The next scene was a picture of Joe’s father’s funeral announcement.

I’m now in my eleventh year helping people with their debts and filing bankruptcy in Santa Rosa. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me “should I put my car or house into somebody else’s name before filing bankruptcy” or “should I put my car or house into somebody else’s name so my creditors can’t take it?”  My answer is always the same—no! Just no. Please, do not do this! If you do, it is a fraudulent transfer. You risk dragging whomever was trying to help you into a serious lawsuit against them and against you. In addition, the item will still likely be confiscated.  It’s very easy for your creditors and the Santa Rosa bankruptcy Trustee who oversees your case to find out about these things. And, they can bring fraudulent transfer lawsuits against you to take your assets going back several years, depending on the jurisdiction.

The Tiger King series brought me awareness of the serious issue of wild animal trafficking in our country. But, there were several other legal issues that would make any Santa Rosa bankruptcy attorneys’ skin crawl.  For, me it was the blatant fraudulent transfers of Joe’s assets to his elderly parents causing them to be taken down with him.

If creditors are harassing you or are threatening to take your assets or you are thinking about filing bankruptcy in Santa Rosa, don’t let this happen to you. If you have any questions about how to protect your assets in bankruptcy, please feel free to reach out to me.