A Penny For Your Thoughts? If Not, Then How About Fifty Cent?

By Leon D. Bayer, Bayer, Wishman & Leotta (Los Angeles, CA)

The famous rap artist Fifty Cent is the debtor in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. Somewhat counter intuitively for any debtor to do, Mr. Cent has been using social media to demonstrate his financial well-being.

Lawyers routinely instruct their clients to keep their hands off all social media while legal matters are pending. It doesn’t take a career criminal to know, “Anything you say may be used against you.”

“Miranda” warnings are not just for cops and robbers. It also goes for what you say and what you post in public, including social media. In spite of the warnings, (not to mention using common ‘cents’), some people can’t keep their mouths shut.

If you blab your legal secrets on the Internet, don’t be surprised by who sees it. That’s Mr. Cent’s most recent problem.

Mr. Cent is in the midst of a very public bankruptcy case. Yet, responding to a ribbing he received about being broke, he posted photos of himself posing with piles of bank wrapped $100 bills.

In the photos he posted, we see stacks of cash covering Mr. Cent’s bed. He also posed alongside stacks of cash in his refrigerator. (Remember that congressman who was investigated for bribery that hid $90,000 cash in a freezer?)

Mr. Cent’s Wikipedia page says he has been arrested twice for selling narcotics, so he’s previously had a few Miranda warnings. I think by now he may wish he had paid more attention to the advice.

Mr. Cent now faces the real possibility of another kind of criminal prosecution. It just happens to be a crime to conceal assets in a bankruptcy case. The photographed cash that Mr. Cent posed with is not listed in his bankruptcy schedules. (He has since claimed the money was not real. But fake money wasn’t listed, either, and the money might yet turn out to have been real.)

If Mr. Cent is prosecuted, it will be a fun case to follow.

A prosecutor can argue that the money in the photos is real, (keep in mind that electronic imaging is so good that we can read a license plate number from outer space); that the failure to disclose in his schedules was deliberate, and the photos posted by Mr. Cent are self- incriminating.

I want to offer advice for Mr. Cent’s lawyer. He should say the photos are really an informal amendment to his client’s bankruptcy schedules, done in “rapper style” and meant to be seen.

One thing I know for sure. I have seen photos of the inside of his refrigerator. I can tell you the guy must be broke. There wasn’t much food in his fridge, and most of what we did see must have been there for so long, it has now turned green.


leon bayerLeon Bayer has been practicing bankruptcy law in Los Angeles, California since 1979. His primary focus is on representing individuals and small businesses. He is a founding partner in the law firm of Bayer, Wishman & Leotta and is a Certified Specialist in Bankruptcy Law. You can visit his professional websites at www.debt-relief-bankruptcy.com www.bankruptcyblogger.org and Mr. Bayer authors the “Ask Leon” series on Nolo’s Bankruptcy, Debt & Foreclosure blog, and writes on bankruptcy topics for Nolo’s website. In addition, Mr. Bayer devotes a significant number of hours to volunteer legal services. The State Bar of California has commended Mr. Bayer for this work every year since 2004. Mr. Bayer’s professional affiliations and leadership roles are many, and include: President of the Los Angeles Bankruptcy Forum (1995-1996), member of the State Bar of California’s Law Advisory Commission on Personal & Small Business Bankruptcy Law (1996-2000), and exam grader and question writer for the State Bar Legal Specialization test on Bankruptcy. Mr. Bayer is a frequent lecturer on bankruptcy law. He has spoken at the former Bridging the Gap program for new lawyers, lectured on bankruptcy case law developments at a number of the State Bar of California Annual Meetings, and has presented bankruptcy law material at many other educational programs. Mr. Bayer’s frequent television appearances include interviews on KCAL9 News and EXTRA (where he weighs in on various celebrity bankruptcies). He has also served as a bankruptcy expert on many different radio shows and news stations, and is a frequent guest on KALW-FM public radio’s Your Legal Rights. Mr. Bayer is currently co authoring a revised edition of Stephen R. Elias’s The New Bankruptcy for Nolo. Other publications include The Essentials of Chapter 13, Daily Journal Report, December 18, 1987, Basic Bankruptcy, California Practice Handbook, Matthew Bender 1992, 1993 (contributing editor), and Personal and Small Business Practice in California, CEB Bankruptcy Practice Guide, 2003 (reviewer and contributing author).

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