Thursday, May 16, 2002

Erpenbeck has Fla. advantage


Residence can't be taken in bankruptcy

By Patrick Crowley, pcrowley@enquirer.com.
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Home builder A. William “Bill” Erpenbeck had a simple reason for moving his family to Florida over the weekend, one of his lawyers says.

[photo] A. William “Bill” Erpenbeck's condominium in Fort Myers, Fla. His lawyer says he and his family are there to avoid media attention.
(The News-Press of Fort Myers, Fla. photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Erpenbeck, who owns a $270,000 condo in Fort Myers, Fla., took his wife and three children there Saturday to escape media coverage of his former company's problems, said Glenn Whitaker, a criminal defense lawyer representing Mr. Erpenbeck.

        Florida could someday offer him another kind of refuge: lenient bankruptcy laws that allow debtors to hold on to some of their assets, including a home.

        Mr. Erpenbeck is free to travel under a $50,000 bond that his family posted after his arrest last week in Boone County on a bad-check charge.

        The lawyer defending him against that charge, Burr J. Travis, said Wednesday that it's not unusual for a defendant facing state charges to be allowed to travel while free on bond.

        “I'm not worried about him coming back,” Mr. Travis said. “He will face whatever is staring him in the face.”

        Moving to the Sunshine State is the route sometimes taken by high-profile business people who have filed for bankruptcy, including former Kentucky Gov. Wallace Wilkinson and the late Marvin Warner, the one-time head of the failed Home State Savings & Loan.

Bill Erpenbeck
Bill Erpenbeck
        Florida is one of five states — Texas, South Dakota, Iowa and Kansas are the others — that offer an unlimited homestead exemption, Blue Ash lawyer Norman L. Slutsky said.

        “That means if you have established residency in Florida and buy a house and then file for bankruptcy, nobody can get the money in that house or take the house,” said Mr. Slutsky, who has served as a bankruptcy trustee for 32 years.

        “It's safe. Nobody can touch it,” Mr. Slutsky said.

        Mr. Erpenbeck, 41, is facing serious financial problems. For example:

        • The company he founded but has now left — the Erpenbeck Co. of Edgewood — is under a federal investigation for allegations of bank fraud.

STORY ARCHIVE
Click here for all Enquirer reports on Erpenbeck Co.
INVESTIGATION
If you have any additional information on the business dealings of the Erpenbeck Co. or Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky - or on the involvement of any parties not yet identified in our coverage - please email Enquirer business reporter James McNair at jmcnair@enquirer.com or Kentucky Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley at pcrowley@enquirer.com.
        • A bank has foreclosed on his $1.3 million Crestview Hills home.

        • He has been named in dozens of lawsuits by banks and contractors who are owed millions of dollars by his former company.

        Mr. Erpenbeck was charged last week in Boone County with writing a $258,993 bad check to a heating and air conditioning contractor.

        Boone County Sheriff's Department spokesman Maj. Jack Banks said there is no problem with Mr. Erpenbeck going to Florida “as long as he comes back for his court dates.”

        Mr. Travis said Mr. Erpenbeck will attend his May 24 arraignment in Boone County.

        Already in Florida is former banker John Finnan. Mr. Finnan was president of Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky, where the Erpenbeck Co. banked.

        Erpenbeck Co. employees are suspected of diverting $15 million in checks that were to go to various mortgage lenders into the company's accounts.

        Mr. Finnan and another Peoples senior executive, vice president Marc Menne, resigned two weeks ago after it was revealed that they had a side business relationship with Mr. Erpenbeck, buying model homes and then leasing them back to the Erpenbeck Co.

        Mr. Finnan owns a condo near Mr. Erpenbeck's condo in Fort Myers, according to real estate records.
       



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