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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The FBI went after individuals and married couples, arresting a total of eight people, who they say committed $3 million worth of bankruptcy fraud.
The cases focus on those who filed for bankruptcy and either hid money and assets, or illegally transferred them out of their name before filing.
On Tuesday, Uncle Sam fought back and many of the suspects are now in federal custody.
Neighbors of Yechezkel and Tamar Nissenbaum couldn’t believe a small army of FBI agents arrived at their high-rise condo building at 4101 Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach for the couple. Agents walked them out, through the lobby, in cuffs early Tuesday morning.
“It comes as a huge shock when someone whose cared about, who’s a member of the community gets taken into custody like that,” neighbor Alex Strassman told CBS4’s Natalia Zea.
Federal agents say the couple liquidated a certificate of deposit worth $141,000 back in 2010, and then filed chapter 7 bankruptcy the following year, without telling the bankruptcy court about that money.
The couple has three young daughters who are now in the care of the Department of Children and Families.
“Great family, see them around the building all the time. Total shock,” said Strassman.
The Nissenbaums were two of eight people arrested or wanted around South Florida for bankruptcy fraud Tuesday.
The others were part of four separate cases that center around concealing cash and assets from the U.S. government.
Those include Walter Lista who used to live on the water in Gables By the Sea, but investigators said transferred $160,000 worth of assets, including his boat and Jeep Wrangler before filing for chapter 7.
The big fish in this roundup, for the feds, is Plant City couple Gregory and Kathleen Cutuli who are accused of hiding $2 million in assets before filing for bankruptcy in a Miami court – $1.8 million of that came from a hidden transfer of a tax refund.
Investigators said the couple also failed to disclose furs, jewelry, household goods and cash.
Those who live near the Nissenbaums worry for their children, the eldest of whom looks like she is in her early teens, and are trying to understand how their neighbors could be caught up in this.
“Serious allegations. I don’t know the facts, but I do know the family. And it comes as a huge surprise,” said Strassman.
You might be wondering why the feds are going after individuals for bankruptcy fraud. The US Attorney’s office says it’s about more than recovering money – it’s about protecting the integrity of the bankruptcy system for those who truly need it.