Gossip sites were all abuzz last week with news of rapper Lupe Fiasco’s legal battle with Inita Patton, the estranged wife of convicted drug kingpin and Fiasco’s mentor, Charles Patton.  The court filings have yet to be released to the public, but reports say that as part of her divorce action against Patton, Inita sued Fiasco in an attempt to recover millions of dollars in drug money that Fiasco allegedly hid at Patton’s direction.

Inita claims that Fiasco funneled Patton’s money through Fiasco’s music production company, 1st and 15th Productions, Inc., and into secret accounts.  Charles Patton has apparently counter-sued Inita, alleging that she pocketed funds intended for real estate purchases that she never actually made.

When we are called upon to help find where a spouse has hidden assets, the first thing we look for are companies owned by the spouse, his family and his close associates.  While we cannot legally access bank account information for these companies, their mere existence can provide a substantial clue that the spouse has been less than forthcoming in his financial disclosures to his spouse.

For example, one client asked us to look into three or four companies in which she thought her husband was involved.  We ended up uncovering nearly fifty companies in multiple states that he owned either alone or with his business partners.  Exposing the debtor spouse’s lies about side companies can give the creditor spouse significant bargaining power in settlement negotiations and pave the way for broad financial discovery in divorce proceedings.

The second place we look for hidden assets is in property records.  We could easily verify whether Inita Patton had actually purchased the real estate she received money to buy.  A simple county-level search, as we explained in our post on tracking down real estate, will show whether she owned the properties Inita said she bought.  Information on any mortgages she may have used to purchase the property would likely be available in the same database, depending on the county.