Mount Pleasant’s Santone faces bankruptcy dismissal again
For the second time within a year, a Mount Pleasant Township businessman faces dismissal of his bankruptcy case for failing to comply with legal requirements.
U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee Rhonda J. Winnecour earlier this month filed a motion for dismissal in the voluntary Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing of Charles “Chip” Santone because he did not comply with the terms of a plan he submitted to the court in March. Santone also failed to attend a creditors’ meeting.
Winnecour further indicated in her motion before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Judith K. Fitzgerald that Santone’s attorney is trying to bail out of the case. In a petition to withdraw, attorney Robert Sloane, of Greensburg, asked Fitzgerald for permission to drop Santone as a client because Santone “is not cooperating” with him.
“We’re fine,” Santone said of his relationship with his lawyer. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
In her Sept. 4 motion to dismiss, Winnecour said Santone failed to make six monthly payments totaling more than $29,000 to his creditors. She also said Santone falsely told the court he had made a “full plan payment” in July.
Winnecour said the payment was made by personal check which, under bankruptcy laws, is not permitted. She also said she never saw the check Santone claimed he sent.
In April, another bankruptcy judge dismissed Santone’s first petition because he failed to complete the required paperwork.
Santone said his actions were all part of his legal strategy. He said he expects to complete the refinancing of his home by Oct. 20 to pay off his first and second mortgages as well as his other creditors.
“We want to be kicked out of bankruptcy by Oct. 30,” Santone said. “We just wanted to buy some time. We bought the time. The loan is approved. I got the commitment letter.”
In July, Fitzgerald granted Bank One of New York relief from an automatic stay that prevented it from foreclosing on Santone’s property. As a result of the ruling, the financial institution can pursue a mortgage foreclosure filed last year against Santone and his wife, Evelyn. According to a writ of execution filed earlier this month, the Santones owe Bank One more than $266,000 on their spacious home that court documents indicate is valued at $1.2 million.
The Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office has scheduled a sheriff’s sale for January. Santone said all of his debts will be paid long before then.
Another bank, The Bank of New York, also filed a mortgage foreclosure action against the Santones last year seeking payments of more than $852,000.
According to his bankruptcy petition, Santone owes more than $1.4 million to secured creditors and another $150,000 to a group of unsecured creditors.
Under Chapter 13, debtors can pay off debts within three to five years and forestall foreclosure or repossession of property. Lawyers say it is an option for individuals who have sufficient income to pay living expenses and have money left over to pay debts.
In court documents, Santone said he earns $10,400 a month as president of Chisan Inc., a management firm in Greensburg, and CMS Sales & Rental, a company that sells construction equipment. His monthly bills amount to $10,700.
According to his settlement plan, Santone is supposed to pay his creditors $4,600 a month.
Santone nearly lost his home earlier this year for failing to pay county real estate taxes. By filing for bankruptcy, he automatically received a stay and later paid the Tax Claims Bureau more than $56,000 for 2001 and 2002 taxes, according to bureau records.
The state objected to Santone’s settlement plan because it did not include provisions for paying the state nearly $380,000 owed to the Department of Revenue in connection with a series of tax evasion convictions in the 1990s.