- Buy Something from the Defendant
Have someone purchase something from the defendant's store or business. Be sure to pay by check. Naturally, this procedure works best if the defendant runs a business or service operation. If he or she does, it is a relatively simple matter to purchase something from the defendant. If the he or she performs a service, simply hire him or her to work for you. If, as an attorney, you think your subject will not fall for this method, use a third party in your place. I warn you not to involve a third party in an undercover operation if you believe there is the slightest chance for violence.
This seemingly simple task can lead to some unusual situations. I had a case against a debtor who ran a small retail establishment. My goal was to simply go into the store and purchase something with a check so I could obtain the store's bank account number. The business was located close to Martin Luther King Boulevard in a predominately black area of town. It was quite a challenge for a white guy to look inconspicuous under these circumstances.
Sure enough, in my next bank statement was the debtor's bank account information on the back of the check I had written him for merchandise bought in his store.
- UCC Filings - File Copy from the Secretary of State
A search should be made of Uniform Commercial Code filings. The bank that loaned the defendant money may be the same bank he or she uses personally.
The debtor will probably obtain financing from a bank that he or she normally does business with. This makes sense. The debtor will usually have a better chance of obtaining a loan from a bank he or she already has a banking relationship with.
Once the debtor's probable bank is identified, you have at least two bites of the apple in obtaining the debtor's bank account. The debtor may have applied to the same bank for a loan.
- UCC Filing - Loan Application from the Secured Party
Keep in mind what purpose that a UCC-1 filing serves. It is to provide notice to the public that the secured party has an interest in the debtor's property. This is generally from the secured party loaning money to the debtor. The debtor does this by filling out a loan application and financial statement. This information should contain the debtor's bank account information.
- UCC Filings - Check from the Secured Party to the Debtor
In a loan situation the bank will issue a check to the debtor. The debtor will deposit the check in his or her bank account. As the check makes it's way back to the issuing bank the debtor's bank account number will be on the back of the check issued by the bank. If you subpoena the secured party for a copy of this check it will show the document trail including the name and account number of the bank the debtor actually deposited the check.
- UCC Filing - Copy of the Debtor's Checks
The debtor is obligated to pay the secured party back for it's loan each month--presumably with a check. All you have to do is subpoena the targeted bank for the above information--any loan applications and/or financial statements of the debtor, any checks the bank issued to the debtor, and the debtor's checks over a period of several months.
- Previous Landlord-- Rental Application
Subpoena the previous landlord of the defendant for a copy of the rental application to see where the defendant banked. Most people are usually creatures of habit. Once a banking relationship is established, it generally remains the same.
- Previous Landlord-- Security Deposit, Canceled Check
Now, the above information may be outdated. However, there are two additional sources of records that the landlord has regarding the debtor's bank account. One is the security deposit and cleaning refund check that was given to the tenant / debtor upon move out. The debtor may have deposited this check in his bank account. The landlord or the landlord's bank has a copy of this check. The debtor's bank account information should be on the backside.
- Previous Landlord-- Copies of the debtor's Rent Checks
During the rental period the tenant/debtor probably paid the landlord by check. The landlord may cooperate or you may have to subpoena him to obtain this information. The landlord will claim he does not have access to these checks. This may be a true statement. The fact of the matter that the bank microfilmed every check the landlord deposited in his account. This includes the Debtor's rent checks.
- Blanket Levy
This technique involves serving a Writ of Execution and a Bank Levy on every bank in the area. This procedure assumes that you will hit an account eventually and that the debtor will bank within only a few mile radius of his home or work. It is rumored that the IRS has used this tactic in the past. For obvious reasons, this technique works best in a small town.
- Debtors Examinations
At this proceeding you can demand that the debtor tell you where his bank account is. The unfortunate effect of this procedure is that the defendant can take most (if not all) of his money out of the account before you can get to it. However, do not dismiss the usefulness of the examination too quickly. Not all debtors are Einstein's. Some debtors do not think to empty their bank accounts. Additionally, there is actual value in finding a bank account with only a few bucks in it or even one that has already been closed. The value is in the microfilmed records the bank will retain on the account.
Just think about it for a second. What documents would a debtor deposit in his bank account? If you answered any of the followings: the debtor's payroll check, the debtor's spouse's payroll check, stock dividend checks, rental income checks, you would be right! Each category of information is extremely valuable to a creditor enforcing a judgment. What is more, the debtor will probably take the funds from his now defunct account and--probably in the form of a check from his old account--deposit it in a new account.
If you know the debtor's employer you may consider serving a Business Record Subpoena on the employer to obtain a copy of a payroll check the debtor has "cashed". The check should have the defendant's account number and possibly the name of the bank on the back of it.
- Current Landlord--Rental Application
The current landlord probably has a rental application on file that show the defendant's bank account.
- Current Landlord--Past Check
Subpoena from the current landlord a copy of the defendant's past month's rent check.
- Current Landlord--Current Rent Checks
Subpoena from the current landlord a copy of the defendant's current month's rent check.
- Trash Search
Some investigative agencies such as the IRS, FBI, local law enforcement agencies, and private investigators will conduct trash searches. The information obtained will reveal the bank where the defendant has an account in addition to probably more information than you ever wanted to know about the defendant. In fact, a trash search tells so much about a debtor that it is absolutely scary. Think I am kidding? Tell you what, to every person who reads this and for an instant thinks this technique will not work, I have an exercise for you. Go through your own trash for a one week period. Write down everything that you can conclude about your household--likes and dislikes in foods and cosmetics, medications, personal correspondence, etc., etc. Are you now considering incinerating your own trash?
- Yard Sale
This is an unusual procedure reserved for the stout of heart. It will not work if the defendant knows you on sight. The way it works is to send post cards to everyone who lives on the defendant's block. The post card should read something like, "Block yard sale this weekend". Put up a few signs directing traffic on the appropriate day. The defendant will be caught up in the excitement and open his garage to sell his unwanted items. First, this is a great chance to view the defendant at home, up close and personal. Take covert inventory of the defendant's assets. Second, buy something from the defendant and pay by check.
- Telephone Records (Search Warrant Required)
- State Sales Tax Permits
The application for a Sales Tax permit requires that the business list it's bank account. This is certainly true of the current sales tax permit for California. It is probably true for other states as well.
- Employment Development Department Permit
The Employment Development Department application, an permit that allows an employer to hire employees, normally requires that the business list it's bank account.
- Divorce records, community property settlement
Sometimes these records contain a wealth of
financial information, including: the name and account number of checking, savings, brokers, stocks, credit cards and bonds account. Often the description and address of private property and the make, model and license number of vehicles also are included in the divisions of property papers.