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How to find hidden assets in your divorce action: Let’s ask Ruth Madoff

Is Ruth Madoff “ruth-Less”? Some would argue yes. I would decline to render an opinion.

But in light of everything that has gone down so far, I thought she might help in writing a post about telling people how to find hidden assets in their divorce action.

Let’s start with relatives. People who are getting divorced might divest the marital estate of its assets by sending them to relatives, and pretending that these items are “gifts” but in fact it is really just a cover, a means to hide the assets and then recoup them after the divorce. So to get the loot, follow the relatives.

Bank accounts. By keeping multiple accounts, a party would make it very difficult for their spouse or the courts to keep track of the money. Some spouses are so good at hiding money in this manner, the skill almost rises to the level of criminal intent and fraud. By multiple accounts I am talking about upwards of 20 or more bank accounts, in different states and certainly in different countries with off shore banking services for the global elite. All of these transactions would be done online. Or would they? Well, start with the computers. Get a forensics specialist. Use all information at your disposal, like SS number, bank statements, etc. But this is going to be hard.

Businesses. A person might use sham corporations, LLC’s and joint ventures to amass a fortune and then keep the profits without paying taxes or sharing the profits with their spouse. It is totally possible for a spouse to own businesses that the other spouse does not know about. Business can then own real estate, cash, securities and other businesses. Because the other spouse is unaware of the existence of the business, and because the businesses is really a sham or dummy, and because there is no transparency or oversight, it would be very easy to hide marital assets in this manner. You and your team, assuming you even find these companies, are going to have to “pierce the corporate veil.”

Jewelry. It can’t be that difficult to steal jewelry from the marital estate and either send them out to family or friends, or put them in a vault in a foreign country – especially if you fly by private jet – or even fill a bucket with them and dig a really deep hole behind your house in Palm Beach, and bury the loot six feet down. Hey, you could even bury the loot on the beach itself, deep in the sand, and pray to god there is no tsunami. So, check the backyard, and the beach.

Real Estate. A spouse can easily own real estate without the other spouse knowing. They can own real estate in foreign countries and in other states. Title could be in the name of a corporation, or a partner with whom the other spouse is a co-owner of a business such as a limited liability company.

Securities. In Bernie and Ruth’s case, it would be easy to hide assets like this because theirs was a closely held family business. It was not publicly traded and there was no oversight. Plus, if you have a few feeder funds like the Madoffs apparently had for their ponzie, then cooking the books would then be as easy as making one of Ruth’s special dishes like Carciofi alla giudia.

Art. Where would Ruth and Bernard hide art work? I’m thinking an old wharehouse in the South Bronx, Queens or far, far out in Staten Island. Like near the landfill or something. Start in Staten Island and work your way backwards.

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