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Bankruptcy Lanigan & Lanigan, P.L.
831 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, Florida 32789


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Bankruptcy Q & A

Florida Bankruptcy Law Eric Lanigan

  1. Call Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L., to make an appointment with Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer Eric Lanigan.
  2. Meet with bankruptcy attorney Eric Lanigan or Roddy Lanigan in their Winter Park, Florida office to discuss your reasons for filing a Florida bankruptcy.
  3. Eric and Roddy will ask questions and discuss your case with you one-on-one.
  4. You make the decision to file bankruptcy and decide which type with the help of the Lanigans. 
  5. When you leave you’ll be given a questionnaire to complete at home.
  6. You’ll provide the completed questionnaire to Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan with all the required paperwork.
  7. Your bankruptcy papers are filed with the court.
  8. Three to six months later the bankruptcy is finalized.

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Will They Take Everything I Own?

Will they take everything you own and sell it? The answer to that in 99% of the cases is, no. When you file bankruptcy there are exemptions to protect you so that the Federal bankruptcy court will not take everything you own. Absolutely nothing moves. If you’re not coming in to talk with a bankruptcy attorney because you’re trying to figure out how to keep or hide assets, you need to put those thoughts aside. That will not happen at any time. Do not try to hide what you own. You are obligated to tell the truth and you are protected under bankruptcy laws.  Now, let’s talk about your case.

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Money in My Bank Account Safe?

Is the money in my bank account safe? Yes. Your money is yours. You can keep the money in your bank account. They’re not going to take it. There are very specific rules that govern your savings, your checking and your income before, during and after a bankruptcy. When you come in to meet with us we will walk you through your concerns by clearly providing answers to your questions. 

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Can I Keep My 401(k)?

Can I keep my 401(k)? In the State of Florida no one can touch your 401(k). It is exempt which means it’s safe and all yours.

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Earnings in a Bank Account?

Any money that you earned within the six months prior to the bankruptcy is exempt including your earnings in a bank account. They can’t go in and raid your bank account. The money is exempt. When you file bankruptcy you are required to submit official copies of all bank account statements: savings, checking, business and personal, every single page. There will be paperwork to demonstrate your earnings, a budget that you will submit and many other financial papers that show your entire financial situation to the courts. Don’t fear what you don’t know. Come in to get the answers. Your friends, your family, your neighbors have different financial situations than you. You have different income, debt, assets than anyone else. This means that if you file bankruptcy that your personal scenario and unique financial problems affect your bankruptcy.

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Can’t Take Paycheck, Garnish Wages

No, they can’t take your paycheck or garnish your wages. The bankruptcy court has protections for consumers. Bankruptcy is an opportunity to reorganize your financial situation after a major life disruption or problem that has caused you great financial distress: medical issues, sudden illness or injury, a job loss, your home losing its value, your spouse being downsized, these are incredibly distressing situations. You can’t restart or redo what is lost when you have many thousands of dollars in medical bills. There is no reason why you cannot file bankruptcy unless you’ve filed recently or you don’t qualify under the Florida means test.

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Can I Lose Everything?

Can I lose everything in a bankruptcy? No. In 99% of cases that will not happen. Most people don’t have to sell things to pay creditors. Bankruptcy law is a protection and a chance provided individuals who need to eliminate debt and reorganize their finances. Many famous and historic people have filed bankruptcy after having lost everything. There is no shame in filing bankruptcy and it is an opportunity to redo, plan carefully and rebuild your financial life.

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Can Creditors Take My Valuables?

Can creditors take my valuables? They’re not going to take your couch, your new or old furniture, Johnny’s bike, your TVs, electronics, computers, clothing, valuables stay with you once you file. They’re not going to get thrown in the back of a truck and hauled away for auction. Do not under any circumstance try to put assets away, hide or move any assets at any time. This is known as bankruptcy fraud and is punishable by jail time.

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What Do I Bring to the Meeting?

What do I bring to the meeting? Nothing. When you come to the Lanigan’s office you fill out a questionnaire. Eric and Roddy Lanigan prepare all the papers for court. But you will provide answer to all the questions. You will also complete the questionnaire.

When all the paperwork is in the Lanigans file the papers. The Lanigans make sure the job is done right and that you’ve given all the necessary information. Yu go together to the bankruptcy meeting and it’s going to be over in three, or four or five minutes at the longest. You’re out the door and it’s over.

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What Happens After the Meeting?

What happens after the very first meeting with the creditors is that the Lanigans give you a long questionnaire with requests for paperwork which only you can complete. It requires balances of debts, creditors with addresses, phone numbers, account numbers. You have to complete this honestly and carefully.

The Lanigans then are able to prepare the bankruptcy paperwork. The court papers are going to be filed. You the client, and Eric Lanigan or Roddy Lanigan may go to a meeting with the bankruptcy court trustee known as the 341 meeting, the creditors meeting that lasts about five minutes. In this meeting you will answer questions asked of you by the court. They may ask if you are keeping a home, or a car, what the exemptions are for those assets. You may confirm your budget, your debts, answer questions about medical bills or credit card debt. You will answer honestly. Then, the bankruptcy case is done. You’re on your way home to begin again financially.

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What Happens to Property?

What happens to property? The minute that the bankruptcy petition is filed—until that file is closed—your property is not your property. It belongs to the bankruptcy estate. You may not move assets. You may not assign property to family or friends. This is an illegal activity which can land you in jail and with a fine.

You might be able to receive an exemption over personal property if it is your primary residence known as a homestead exemption which means that the trustee ultimately can’t get it. But you have to understand from a theoretical perspective and standpoint: that some property is theirs. The Lanigans will work with you to legally protect what is your property.

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What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

What’s the worst that can happen? What you think is an incredible problem is probably not that bad. At least take time to find out what we think can be accomplished. Most clients say that they worry about issues that never come true and worry about things that will never happen. Most people say that they wish that they would have come in many months, sometimes years sooner. When you wait or delay you may be wasting money and time. 

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The No. 1 Priority in Bankruptcy?

The No. 1 priority in bankruptcy? Our job is to find out if there are any wrinkles in your case and if there are, find them and iron them out. No matter how complicated a case was when you first came into our office, when the papers get filed, they all get put into one category: Simple.

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What Happens in Meetings?

What happens in meetings in meetings with the Lanigans? You fill out a questionnaire, we prepare all the papers, you answer our questions, and we file the papers. We make sure we’ve done our job right and that you’ve given us all the information we need. We go together to the bankruptcy meeting and it’s going to be over in three, or four or five minutes at the longest. We’re out the door and it’s over.

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Are All Bankruptcies Simple?

Are all bankruptcies simple? They can all be simple if when you come in we find the wrinkles and we iron them out together. Almost never do you find a case that we say, “there’s nothing I can do.” It’s important that you tell us everything and be completely honest with us.  In 99% of the cases, it is a paper shuffle. Shuffle them in, shuffle them out. Done!

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Can I File Bankruptcy?

Can I file bankruptcy? Everyone can file bankruptcy in the state of Florida once every 10 years. If there’s any question as to your qualifying to file there is a Florida means test. Do you have the means to pay for your debts or not? This is a standard test based on your income, your debt, your assets, your exemptions. It’s not a test that is based on knowledge but is based on your finances. 

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What is a Florida Means Test?

What is a Florida means test? The means test is based on income and determines whether your income is low enough for you to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The means test will prevent people with  higher incomes from filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

People with incomes that are high enough will fail the means test and will likely have to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy to repay some of their debt, but may not use to wipe out their debts all together.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Contact us to find out about your situation. You could be worrying over nothing.

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Can Creditors Still Come After Me?

Can creditors still come after me? There’s a very common thing that happens when the bankruptcy’s filed. There’s a freeze. Everything stops. Once the bankruptcy is filed, creditors stop calling. No creditors, no collections, no lawsuits, no nothing. Creditors may not keep calling you after you file bankruptcy. Provide your creditors with your case number if they do call and when they receive the case number it is supposed to be the last time that they may call you for answers.

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Major Causes of Bankruptcy?

Death, divorce, illness, medical bills, completes loss of job or hours that have been cut in half are major causes of bankruptcy. Florida has been incredibly hard hit economically since 2007. People are still filing bankruptcy and foreclosure to prevent financial disaster. If you’ve been living on the edge and now the edge has moved and you’ve fallen into debt there’s no way for you to get out of debt, you may come in to find out if bankruptcy is right for you.

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Who is Filing Bankruptcy Today?

Who is filing bankruptcy today? People who file bankruptcy are diverse. There is no such thing as typical. It’s single mothers, heads of large and small families, professionals in all social and economic situations.

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Why Do People File Bankruptcy?

Why do people file bankruptcy? People file bankruptcy to eliminate debt and get a fresh start. The reasons people are filing bankruptcy are equally as diverse as the people filing bankruptcy.

The No. 1 cause of most bankruptcies, generally speaking, comes from credit card debt. Credit cards are often used when people are experiencing a crisis in their life whether it’s financial or personal. But the spending on credit cards is not due to frivolous spending but due to the use of credit cards to pay for everyday living expenses. Credit cards are being used to buy groceries, pay for clothes, school supplies, electric bills, car notes, house notes.

Homes have been lost. Jobs have disappeared. If someone has paid off medical bills with a credit card to avoid having a long-term debt or a negative credit rating and the interest rate on the credit card is at 19%, the debt may be many, many thousands of dollars. If you’ve lost your job, then, it’s not realistic that you will ever be able to pay off that medical care debt. You need to find out what your options are and you’ll see that it’s never, ever as bad as you think it is. 

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What’s Lost in Trustee Meeting?

What’s lost in a trustee meeting for bankruptcy? You can lose a lot. You can have a highly aggressive trustee that will go for it. They’re not a judge. They’ll go for all of your assets. They’re in the adversarial system. Their job is to take what they can get for those creditors from an individual or a business. 

Trustees are incentivized to do so because the way a trustee is paid is on a percentage basis of what they collect. You’re in Federal Court going up against a person incentivized to take your merchandise and property. This is a gamble that you do not want to take. By having an experienced bankruptcy attorney your rights will be explained, your rights will be protected. Bankruptcy is not a do-it-yourself legal action.

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Foreclosure After Bankruptcy?

Can I face foreclosure after bankruptcy? This is a very common question because usually people in debt have problems with paying their mortgage which is often several months behind. If you say, ‘let’s give up the house and wipe out the debt’ you will likely have a foreclosure lawsuit that will be in front of you. If you have not paid your mortgage, are more than four months behind and cannot pay your mortgage, yes, the bank is going to file a foreclosure lawsuit.

It’s not uncommon for the mortgage company to file a motion with the court to allow them to go forward with the foreclosure now since you’ve already said you were going to give up the property rather than wait until the bankruptcy was over. It’s how they get the clear title. But in every situation where a home is involved and your mortgage is overdue, it depends on what you want to have happen. You either allow the foreclosure lawsuit to proceed and you don’t fight it, or you decide to keep your home. You will not have to figure this out alone; we’ll help you by providing you with the options based on your financial situation. There is not one simple answer.

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What Can They Take?

What can they take? There’s a 99% probability you will give up absolutely nothing in terms of property or assets. We would need to talk to you about your case to know for sure. Don’t worry about things that may never happen. You’ll find out right away what can and what will not occur. 

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Should I File Bankruptcy?

If you’re reading this in order to get a handle on things and to figure out if bankruptcy is suitable or take your time if you’re trying to decide “should I file bankruptcy?” Carefully review your situation. You need to think about your family, your job, your income, your future income, your retirement and it’s your decision and it’s a big decision.

It’s important to thoroughly and honestly discuss debt relief options and procedures and determine a timeline, a plan and what it will cost to manage your debt situation before making a decision. Consult with Lanigan and Lanigan to review your situation.

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What If I Include My Home?

What if I include my home in the bankruptcy? If a person’s come out of bankruptcy and they’re hundreds of thousands of dollars upside down on the house. They’ve wiped out the debt in the bankruptcy. However, there is a foreclosure lawsuit pending if you have stuck your head in the sand, ignored your bank, never dealt with the lender. If you have not paid your mortgage you either include the home mortgage amount that is overdue in the bankruptcy, and let the home foreclosure continue. Or you fight the foreclosure after eliminating debt. Bankruptcy puts a stop on foreclosure proceedings allowing you time to decide what you will do. We will explain your options and you will make the final decisions.

The phrase is, “surrender the house.” You’d think this means you have to pack up and move out of the house.  But it doesn’t mean surrender. It means that you’ve stated the intent to get rid of the debt and ultimately give up the property. This will be one of your options and not the only choice you have. You may decide to fight the foreclosure.

But the bank still has to go through the foreclosure process to get title (because they still have title to the property) so you have to go through foreclosure to give the title back.

They also want to go through a foreclosure to get rid of all the other people who still might be owed money through liens and who have put liens on your property to collect money you owe. They want to go through that process to clear everybody off the title.

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How Long Does Bankruptcy Take?

How long does bankruptcy take? Three to six months. It begins when you come in for your meeting. Provide payment, provide all the paperwork — and there is a lot of paperwork that you are required to provide. We cannot proceed until every single piece of paperwork that we ask for is in our office for the bankruptcy file. When you complete that paperwork, you are on your way. If you hurry up, make it a priority, get the mortgage papers, your paychecks, copies of your taxes, copies of all bank accounts–every page, you turn it in and we can begin processing your bankruptcy. The heavy lifting is done by you upfront. The rest is in our hands and you can relax.

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What Do I Do First?

What do I do first? Don’t bring everything in at once. Don’t bring a box of bills and debts for us to look at. We believe you and we know that you have endured hardships. The Lanigans will give you a questionnaire to fill out when you go home. Let us just start by saying that you should relax.

Bankruptcy is a lot simpler than you think it is and it’s going to solve far more problems than you think. So give us a call and let’s talk a little more about it. You should consult an attorney who will review your case thoroughly, carefully and with questions, your answers and then a decision: do you want to file bankruptcy now that you know the facts and the outcomes?

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Do I Have to Go to Counseling?

Do I have to go to counseling? Yes but it is online counseling in a question and answer format which you complete before and after filing bankruptcy. You complete the questions by clicking answers, providing your budget and a range of other non-difficult questions.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you have to consult with a non-profit credit counseling agency through an online session that is completed in an hour or less in two distinct sessions. The reason for this counseling is to see whether or not there is a feasible way to handle your debt load outside of bankruptcy, without adding to what you owe. You have to provide your actual budget, your debts, check your paperwork against what you provide to us in writing. It is a very serious part of the process which must be completed before the bankruptcy can proceed.

It is mandatory. This is done so that the credit counseling agency can determine if you can possibly repay the debt with a repayment plan and can get on your feet without going into debt.

You don’t have to do what they say that you should even if they say that you don’t have to file. But if the agency does come up with a plan you have to file it with the bankruptcy.

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Is There a Lot of Paperwork?

Is there a lot of paperwork? There is some paperwork that only you can provide. We first tell you to take a bankruptcy questionnaire home and fill it out. You’ll answer questions about who your creditors are, how much you owe each creditor, you’ll provide copies of bills, bank statements, taxes, medical bills, car notes, house notes, savings accounts, checking accounts. If you’re a private business owner, you’ll provide us with a profit and loss statement. If you cannot provide this, we will show you how to complete it.

Next, you bring back the questionnaire to us, completed. We look at the answers, and ask some more questions.  Then we’ll decide what to do next. YOU don’t do anything but supply us with a very careful list of debts and creditors. We can’t do this part for you because only you know who you owe. When we have it we look carefully at your case, review it and we tell (advise) you what to do. We’ll tell you how bankruptcy will apply to YOU and what you can expect. We’ll tell you what you keep, what you will have to submit in writing and what exemptions you receive.

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Is It Complicated?

Is it complicated? No bankruptcy is not complicated. You’ll think it’s difficult to provide the paperwork until you open up your files at home and pull everything together for us. We give you a list of bills, taxes, mortgage, medical, credit card, car and other paperwork to provide. Please work at this by providing one thing at a time. Don’t let it overwhelm you. This is the most difficult part — pulling your paperwork together. The more quickly it’s provided, the more quickly we can get to work on your case.

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Bankruptcy or Foreclosure Costs?

What are the bankruptcy or foreclosure costs? Prices vary as do the many situations and reasons that people file a bankruptcy. If you’re shopping for the cheapest legal fee possible, we are not the cheapest. We are a highly skilled law firm with more than 30 years of Florida bankruptcy and foreclosure experience. Your case is not like anyone else’s, nor do we treat all bankruptcy or foreclosure cases the same.

Your legal representation should be your primary concern: we will do the very best for you and put the full assets of our law firm behind you. We work very hard for you and you and will help to resolve some very complicated situations. 

Florida foreclosure laws changed drastically in June 2013 requiring the homeowner to prove that the foreclosure is or is not warranted. The average person cannot do this and foreclosure requires an experienced attorney. Bankruptcy is not a do it yourself area of law. This is not small claims court: it’s Federal Court.

Some people have a long history of bad credit and may have creditors, several businesses, rental properties, a home, medical and credit card debt, equity lines of credit, personal loans and liens by homeowner associations, law suits and more. You may be a renter with one huge credit card problem and a major medical bill. No price for bankruptcy or foreclosure is the same because the amount of work ALWAYS varies. 

Come to Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L., if you’re looking for experienced legal representation for Florida bankruptcy and or foreclosure.

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What Goes on in Bankruptcy Hearing?

What goes on in bankruptcy hearing is a relatively quick procedure. You go into the meeting with the trustee and with us and it’s probably over in less than five minutes. You may be asked a few questions, such as, what did you do with your tax return, or when did you incur the medical debt. You may not be asked anything at all. But if you are, we will be there if necessary to answer questions, defend you or tell you to provide the honest answers when asked.

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What Next?

People turn around to us every time a bankruptcy hearing ends and say, “Now what? What next?” We tell them it’s over and they say, “Really?!” And we tell them, “Really.” Bankruptcy is that simple and by having and hiring Lanigan and Lanigan to handle your bankruptcy, the process will remain simple. 

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Are All Bankruptcies the Same?

Are all bankruptcies the same? No. Every bankruptcy and every business and individual situation is different. But before you panic and start hiding things under a mattress let’s take a look at what you have going on. We will look at your debt, your liens, your entire financial situation. We can clarify and make decisions together. By carefully reviewing the aspects of your case we can work with you for the most positive outcome.

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Experience With a Trustee

While the trustees are tough, and they are in an adversarial position within the court, Eric and Roddy Lanigan are considered worthy adversaries with plenty of experience with a trustee. There’s a professional respect and the trustees realize that there will be no pushing around to get client assets without merit.

Eric and Roddy Lanigan are bankruptcy attorneys that are known within the bankruptcy trustee community who have a reputation of being honest and being professional and trustworthy but at the same time not backing down when it’s basically not in the best interests of the client to back down. You want and it’s important to have an attorney who’s respected by the trustee.

What Can a Bankruptcy Trustee Do? The trustee has a right to enter your home. They have the right to do pretty much anything to get that property from you.

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Trustee Home Inspections

The Lanigans have seen incidents that have occurred where bankruptcy trustee home inspections have been quite intrusive.

There was a situation where a trustee came into the home of a client and the trustee was told that if she opened up one more drawer of a client’s dresser without permission from the client that the client was going to be told that his fourth amendment rights were being violated and that he was going to be advised to call the police.

Trustees may try to attach property that they’re not entitled to because they will try to get whatever they legally can.

These are the types of things that happen without a lawyer who knows what he or she is doing. Individuals and businesses can be completely walked all over by a court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.

So if you wonder if little Johnny’s bicycle is on the line or if movers will come to your house and shovel everything onto a U-Haul…yes, this is a real possibility unless you have the right lawyer.

Bankruptcy is an adversarial system and you can be in a situation where you might need an attorney to fight for your rights to keep the things that you own that you’re entitled to keep.

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Getting a New Car or Home Loan?

Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L., have seen people getting a new car or home loan as soon as six weeks after a bankruptcy was completed. While every individual and company varies, consult with an expert from a reputable firm for direction on how to rebuild your credit and how to best manage your finances after bankruptcy.

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What About My Credit?

What about my credit? The first thing that clients ask when the bankruptcy is final is how long before you can get new credit? Generally speaking, credit can be rebuilt, carefully, patiently, strategically within two years and with careful management. Find a reputable credit repair and counseling resource to guide you forward for life after bankruptcy.

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Can I Go to Jail?

Can I go to jail? No, you’re not going to jail–In most cases: If you’re telling the truth and are not filing fraudulent debts or intentionally dishonest information. We tell you and advise all clients to tell the truth, be honest and open and do not lie, do not try to hide assets because you will be in very dire, very serious legal trouble. Lying, hiding assets is a criminal offense punishable by jail and by fines. Your only option is to tell the truth.

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