In some cases, debtors have time to prepare for an asset search. For example, they might decide to decrease the amount of cash they have on hand by investing in antiques. The antiques remain hidden so as not to arouse suspicion. After the case is settled, the antiques are sold, most likely at a profit.
It is difficult to track down personal property that doesn’t require licensing or title registration, like cars, boats or aircraft do. This is especially true if the debtor has purchased the goods via a third party or a corporation. Linking him to those purchasers might be difficult. Given that direct evidence might be scarce, the next best thing is probably to search for circumstantial evidence. Look for signs that indicate antiques might have been purchased or delivered, or that suggest where they may be hidden.
- Check the debtor’s travel records. Did his recent travels coincide with any antique shows or fairs? Sometimes even if a debtor is smart enough to pay for the items themselves in cash or via a third party, he might have not thought to mask his entrance fees to these sort of events. If you have access to credit card records, Pay Pal account activity or bank statements, scour them for any charges that indicate he might have been shopping for antiques. This could even include the purchase of travelers checks to avoid paying in cash.
- Also, if an item was purchased during a trip, perhaps he had to pay for additional cargo space on a flight or shipment via a secure carrier. Are there any records of additional charges to an airline? Or fees to have an item delivered?
- We can look at customs records to determine if the debtor, any of his known companies or any other third party with whom he might be collaborating received items shipped from abroad.
- Has he recently hired movers, either at home or at work? In our experience, movers are a chatty bunch, and they might be willing to divulge what they were contracted to move.
- If the debtor is determined to keep the antiques out of sight, then any evidence that he may have rented a storage locker or a safety deposit box could prove helpful. Given that most antiques have to be carefully stored, it might be worthwhile to track down the list of temperature regulated art storage facilities in the area. Or in cases where there might be adultery involved, facilities in areas where the spouse’s new partner lives. Check financial records for evidence of payments to these sorts of businesses.
- If he’s very cautious, the debtor will have insured the antiques. Has he taken out any increased property insurance or separate riders for additional items?