A U.S. Bankruptcy Court trustee in Pennsylvania wants a judge to dismiss the bankruptcy case of Michael J. Covatto, former president of defunct collection agency Unicredit America Inc., an Erie, Pa.-based firm that operated a fake courtroom allegedly to intimidate debtors (see story).
A dismissal would strip Covatto of protection from creditors, who could then pursue his assets.
The trustee, Ronda Winnecour, argues that Covatto's continued invocation of the Fifth Amendment in the case, and his refusal to answer questions about his finances, should be enough to support a dismissal. A hearing date for the request has yet to be set.
Covatto filed for personal bankruptcy in June 2011. He has cited the Fifth Amendment in refusing to provide information. He has done so at the advice of his criminal-defense lawyer, Thomas Patton, an assistant federal public defender. He last invoked his rights against self-incrimination at a meeting of his creditors on Dec. 28, and also cited the Fifth Amendment at a creditors meeting last September.
No criminal charges have been filed against Covatto, 50, or anyone connected to Unicredit. The state Attorney General's Office sued Unicredit in 2010, which forced the closing of the operation, and is pursuing consumer-protection claims against Covatto in Erie County (Pa.) Court.