In September 2010, Bippus-Allen filed a joint Chapter 13 bankruptcy
petition in both her and her husband’s name in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court
for the Southern District of Indiana. Her husband of more than 25 years
had no idea she had done so.
“He trusted his wife to handle all
the family finances,” said Special Agent Paul Medernach, who
investigated the case. “He never used a computer, and never saw his pay
stub because his check went into his bank account through direct
During the course of the bankruptcy proceedings,
Bippus-Allen created documents bearing the forged signature of her
husband, and she made excuses about why he could not attend meetings. In
one instance, she provided her bankruptcy attorney with a letter from a
doctor stating that her husband was under his care and would be
hospitalized for at least 30 days, during which he could not see
visitors or take phone calls.
“That was all a lie,” Medernach
said. “She faked the letter and the doctor’s signature. Her husband had
never been under the doctor’s care.”
In March 2011, Bippus-Allen
attended a meeting of creditors that her husband was also required to
attend. That’s when she persuaded her brother, David Bippus, to
impersonate her husband. Both stated under oath that he was her husband,
and a bankruptcy plan was confirmed requiring monthly payments to
Bippus-Allen’s trustee for 60 months. Approximately $74,000 was deducted
from the husband’s direct deposit paychecks, without his consent or
knowledge—and Bippus-Allen gained access to those funds.
the same time period, Bippus-Allen transferred money on multiple
occasions from her husband’s 401(k) account into her own personal bank
accounts by purporting to be her husband and by providing false
documentation. In all, those unauthorized withdrawals totaled more than
$24,000, not including more than $16,000 in loans she took out on her
husband’s 401(k) account—again, without his knowledge or consent.
idea that a disgruntled wife or husband would want to steal a spouse’s
money is perhaps not that surprising, Medernach noted. “But not many
spouses would go to these lengths—to find someone to impersonate a
spouse and to forge documents like doctor’s notes and a driver’s
The scam might have continued to work if not for an
unbelievable coincidence: A relative of the victim happened to work as a
paralegal for an Indiana bankruptcy attorney and saw his name on the
bankruptcy court’s docket. She asked the husband if he was aware of it,
and he was not. The relative contacted law enforcement.
investigators worked closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to unravel
the fraud and to bring charges against Bippus-Allen and her brother.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office was eager to prosecute this case because it
sends a clear message,” said Kasper. “For husbands or wives who might
have similar ideas about defrauding their spouses, they should know
there are serious penalties for such actions.”