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September 17, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Convicted White Plains bankruptcy schemer accused of more dubious filings

Within months of a judge putting Armando Pons on supervised release for bilking the government of nearly $1 million in a bankruptcy scheme, the White Plains businessman allegedly went back to filing dubious bankruptcy petitions.

“No playing games,” U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel ordered Pons in March 2016. “And you need to make sure that you fully comply with the law because the last thing you want is to get dragged back in front of me after this long history because you’re not going to your mental-health treatment or you’re not being honest with probation or you’re violating some other condition of release.”

Nine months later, after a 4 1/2-year hiatus while dealing with the criminal charges, he allegedly resumed filing questionable bankruptcy petitions.

Last week, U.S. Trustee William K. Harrington sued Pons in federal bankruptcy court in  White Plains, accusing him of abuse of the bankruptcy process. The lawsuit also names Arcadia V. Escondo, who was identified in the criminal case as his wife.

They did not immediately return telephone or email messages requesting their side of the story.

Pons moved to the U.S. from Argentina in 1985. He claimed to have a master’s degree in international relations, specializing in international law. In the U.S., he has run businesses that specialize in immigration and bankruptcy filings.

But he is not an attorney and has not been admitted to practice law in New York state, according to the federal government.

In 2012, the federal prosecutor charged Pons and his wife with tax fraud.

The couple filed at least 78 fraudulent corporate tax returns from 2006 to 2011, claimed nearly $7 million in refunds and received $988,385.

The prosecutor dropped the charge against Escondo. Seibel found Pons incapable of defending himself.

“While likely intellectually gifted,” a psychologist reported, his “thinking is intruded upon by emotionally charged misperceptions and distortions.”

He had sued the federal government for $150 trillion after his arrest, for instance, claiming that he was being politically prosecuted for being a member of the Tea Party and for supporting the Republican Party. He claimed that IRS agents and assistant prosecutors are “monsters who want to eat people.”

Pons was imprisoned for 32 months, then formally pleaded guilty in 2016 to impairing the administration of the Internal Revenue Service. Seibel sentenced him to time served and ordered him to pay $988,385 restitution and to participate in an outpatient mental health program.

The new charges were filed Nov. 6 as an adversarial proceeding in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. The debtor in that case, Carlos Ozorio, lives in Queens where he runs a tire and muffler shop. But the bankruptcy petition lists his address as 445 Hamilton Ave., White Plains.

That is one of the addresses that Pons uses, according to the government complaint, for allegedly filing questionable bankruptcy petitions. Twenty-six times, and as recently as last month, the government alleges, Pons filed petitions without identifying himself as the preparer.

In the previous scheme, most of the bankruptcy petitions were in the names of fictional businesses. This time, according to the complaint, the petitions were filed in the names of third-party individuals.

At least one bankruptcy case was filed without the knowledge of the purported debtor. Most of the petitions contain inaccurate information, such as social security numbers or omit required information.

The government claims that Pons and Escondo filed the petitions to delay foreclosures and evictions at their business and residential addresses, by listing the properties as in need of protection.

The government is asking bankruptcy court to fine them for violating bankruptcy regulations and to permanently ban them from filing new cases.

In 2016, Seibel said she was not going to keep Pons in prison any longer, just to protect the public.

“But I do worry,” she said, “particularly given the games that he played while on bail, that he doesn’t take particularly seriously his obligations of honesty to the court or the U.S. government in general.

“Time will tell.”