Nicholasville woman must stay in jail until her bankruptcy fraud trial, judge says

bestep@herald-leader.comJanuary 26, 2014 

A Nicholasville woman accused of bankruptcy fraud should stay in jail until her trial, a federal magistrate judge has ruled.

Evidence indicates Sheryl A. Bruner lied repeatedly and that she has access to a lot of money she could use to flee, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier said in his order.

Wier concluded there were no release conditions he could impose that would reasonably assure Bruner would stick around for her trial, scheduled to begin March 10.

"Simply put, the record reflects a calculating individual willing to lie, or at least conceal the truth, in order to obtain a desired result," Wier wrote. "Suffice it to say that the court views Bruner as calculating, dishonest, and desperate, which is a poor combination for bond."

Wier ruled Thursday after listening to evidence at a hearing on the government's motion to keep Bruner locked up until her trial.

Bruner was charged this month with stealing disability checks from the Social Security Administration, lying about her eligibility for disability, concealing assets from the agency, and making false statements when she filed for bankruptcy in May.

Bruner has pleaded not guilty.

Bruner said she was disabled because of depression and anxiety, and could not work, according to court records.

She started getting disability in January 2002.

However, she allegedly operated a business called Support Source from 2002 to 2011, receiving Medicaid payments to perform services for people with disabilities, then later went to work for another agency that provided similar services.

When she filed for bankruptcy in May — asking, among other things, to shed a second mortgage on her house — she listed her monthly salary as $12,500 and said her house was valued at $500,000, according to court records.

However, when she filled out paperwork in July for continued disability payments, she said she couldn't work and had no assets, according to Wier's order.

Authorities searched Bruner's house in December as part of an investigation of reports she had billed Medicaid for services her Support Source company did not provide.

During the search, she told investigators she did not have a key for a locked closet.

However, the authorities found a key in the house; the door led to an attic where they found $223,000 in a safe, and marijuana, according to Wier's order.

Investigators also found two guns and crack cocaine in Bruner's house, according to the court record.

Soon after the search, Bruner told an employee at a bank that she wanted to transfer $493,000 from a TD Ameritrade account and withdraw it in cash, according to Wier's order.

She also took more than $58,000 from her account at Central Bank and Trust in December.

That included $25,000 on Christmas Eve that she told a bank representative was for a contract with a company called "Doomsday Preppers" for an underground house, Wier recounted in his order.

Bankruptcy trustee Phaedra Spradlin also testified that Bruner had a number of assets she did not disclose in her bankruptcy petition, including trust accounts, rental properties and several vehicles.

Other than her house, the only assets Bruner had listed were $1,500 in a checking account and a used Chevrolet pickup she valued at $1,500.

Wier concluded that the undisclosed assets and Bruner's capacity to get large sums of cash, combined with her history of considerable international travel, indicated a "serious risk of flight."

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1.

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