Judgment recovery is not as easy as asking “show me the money” after you win a lawsuit. Getting a judgment in a court of law gets you a piece of paper and the right to now go and collect on it. It doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be successful AND if you’re not successful if feels like getting victimized all over again.
So if you want to know how to actually recover what’s rightfully owed to you, you’re going to love today’s guest. He’s the nation’s leading financial forensic expert and he’ll explain what you need to do to successfully enforce and recover a legal judgement in the United States.
What You’ll Discover About Judgment Recovery (highlights and transcript):
- Why building a better relationship with the local sheriff’s department is a smart idea. [3:04]
- Why deposing the debtor immediately after the verdict isn’t the smartest thing to do. [10:58]
- How to avoid the debtor’s delays and stall tactics. [15:17]
- The financial forensic research you need to do before engaging in judgment recovery. [13:20]
- The best strategy for locating assets the debtor hides. [12:12]
- The mistake lawyers often make when seeking judgment recovery. [8:52]
- And much more.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] Judgment recovery is not as easy as asking someone to just show you the money after you win a lawsuit, getting a judgment in a court of law, gets you a piece of paper and the right to now go after someone and collect, it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be successful. And if you’re not, it feels like getting victimized all over again. So if you want to know how to actually recover what’s rightfully owed to you, you’re going to love today’s guest. He’s the nation’s leading financial forensics expert and he’ll explain what you need to do to successfully enforce and recover a legal judgment.
Announcer: [00:00:43] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner giving you the inside scoop on how to ignite more business success by doing the right things in the right way.
Hanna: [00:00:56] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today I’m privileged to welcome Joe Dickerson to the show. Joe is a domestic and international judgment enforcement expert who helps individuals and businesses enforce civil judgments in the U.S. and around the world as CEO of Financial Forensic Services LLC. He also trains people on how to do asset recovery. His relevant experience in helping victims recover money runs deep, and it includes being a former detective sergeant of the Houston Police Department in Texas and founding member of Houston’s Harris County District Attorney’s Organized Crime Bureau. He’s also taken the lessons he’s learned over the years and put it in writing in his international bestselling book, Diagnostic and Prescriptive Judgment Enforcement: The New Model for Judgment Recovery.
Hanna: [00:01:56] Joe I tell you; I wish I had known about Joe’s book several years ago. As an attorney, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to collect on a judgment. One case that I had a bunch of years ago, I sent the judgment to the local sheriff’s office to execute. And when I called him to find out, hey, how are we doing? I was told, Oh, don’t you worry about it. We have 30 days to execute on this order. I had actually someone drive by the business that we had sued and I was told, yeah, they’re still up and running. Everything’s looking good. But wouldn’t you know it? On the 30th day when the sheriff’s office went to do their job, you guessed it, crickets. There was a padlock on the door. The lights were out. The place was totally cleaned out. Maybe a crumpled piece of paper in the corner. Joe, I wish I knew you then. And I’m so glad you’re here now. Welcome to Business Confidential Now.
Joe Dickerson: [00:02:50] Well, thank you so much, Hanna. It’s a delight to be with you. I appreciate the opportunity to join you and your guests to discuss my favorite subject, how you can recover your money from the bad guys. So let’s talk about it.
The Role of Law Enforcement Relationships in Judgement Recovery
Hanna: [00:03:04] Well, yeah, and let’s start with what should I have done differently so our listeners can have a better outcome than I did?
Joe: [00:03:10] Well, you are at the mercy of the sheriff’s department and you certainly can’t tell them how to run their business.
Joe: [00:03:17] But, you know, having built a relationship and a dialogue with people in the civil division of numerous sheriff’s department around the country, we’ve been able to offer our services to assist them with their raids. So when we have a judgment where we have to execute against it, we always plan ahead with the sheriff’s department, get a date and time. Are the U.S. marshal marshal’s office, if it’s a federal case and get the date and time specific, have a rendezvous site. We always bring our team with a photographer and an inventory sheet of what we’re going to confiscate. We bring a locksmith so that if the bad guys are not home or they refuse to let us in, we can get in without damaging the property because we want to be sure to be able to lock it up when we leave.
Joe: [00:04:13] And we actually bring the moving van with an approved moving company, a storage company staff, to do the work. So the sheriff’s department really doesn’t have to do a whole lot other than exercise their authority and let us do the heavy lifting for us or them. And with that liaison, we’ve never missed a date in time or had an opportunity to execute when it was all properly planned. But the individual creditor like yourself doesn’t necessarily have that information and know that process.
The Inspiration for Joe’s Book
Hanna: [00:04:46] You got that right, Joe, definitely. So anyhow, I am so fascinated by your book, Diagnostic and Prescriptive Judgment Enforcement. That is a real mouthful. What inspired you to write that?
Joe: [00:05:01] Well, I know it is a mouthful. And, you know, I always felt like with any problem, if we don’t correctly diagnose the problem, how can we properly prescribe a solution to it? So we spent a lot of time figuring out what’s wrong and then what needs to be done. And of course, my motivation in doing that was the fact that 80 percent of the civil judgments in the United States are never collected. And I think that’s a fallacy in the civil judgment system that has to be corrected.
Joe: [00:05:35] So, you know, people always say, I don’t want to talk to the person that wrote the book, er, that read the book. I want to work with the person that wrote the book. And I figured after fifty-five years of doing this, the younger investigators and others that I can share this information with, the better. So they can learn to do this long after I’m gone. And also let the people that have judgments know that there is hope, there is a way to do this. And we’ve learned a lot through trial and error. And I just don’t accept no as an answer. So we’ll keep going until we get it done.
Hanna: [00:06:15] Well, where do those people go wrong? You said there’s a right way to go about it. Why do things get off track? Why do less than 80 percent get collected?
Joe: [00:06:25] Well, first of all, it was the mentality for years in the legal system that doing judgment enforcement was the dirty work. The attorneys that couldn’t get real clients might take judgment enforcement work. That was the attitude in the 30’s and 40’s and even up into the 50’s and early 60’s by some. The other problem is that most attorneys, well, attorneys in general, are not trained on how to do the work.
The Legal Training Gap in Judgment Recovery
Joe: [00:06:54] I had my staff do a survey of the top 50 law schools in the United States, and we personally interviewed either the dean or the registrar, not some student that was answering the phone. And the interview had one question, and it is, “sir or ma’am, what do you have in your curriculum at Harvard or Yale or whatever the university was we were speaking at?” What do you have in your curriculum that teaches your law school students how to enforce judgments? And there was always a pause and the response from 47 of them was, oh, well, we don’t we don’t actually cover that subject. And the other three said, oh, yes, judgment enforcement. Well, actually, we talk about that for, let me see, about two or three hours each semester in our creditor’s rights course.
Joe: [00:07:54] And we wonder why attorneys are not trained in how to do judgment enforcement. That’s not to say that they’re not quite a few good attorneys that do know how to do this. And the ones that don’t know are not necessarily not good attorneys. They just don’t have the expertise. But the ones that do have taken the initiative to learn it on their own through continuing legal education courses, mostly through finding mentors that have been there, done that by trial and error, and have mastered the process along with their ongoing education and have taken the younger attorneys under their wing and taught them. So we are starting to make some progress, but there’s a long way to go.
Joe: [00:08:35] And the processes that are used, you know, are typically not the ones that are most effective. They’re the ones that have always been used. And, you know, if you have time, we can talk about two or three brief examples on that.
Common Mistakes Lawyers Make When Seeking Judgment Recovery
Hanna: [00:08:52] Well, yeah, I’d like to get into that, but I can vouch for the fact that I went to law school, how to collect a judgment was not part of it. The job was to win in court and actually most cases get settled. So that took care of that issue. But yes, the enforcement part was not something part of the curriculum. It’s not something that’s on a bar exam. So typically didn’t need to be covered. But that’s not the real, real life. So it’s always good to have someone with your experience that can discuss that because it really is where the rubber meets the road. Winning a lawsuit is only half the battle. If you don’t settle ahead of time, you want to be able to recover. So tell me what steps, give me two or three, that people typically take that they shouldn’t be taking.
Joe: [00:09:37] Well, the first one is that typically the attorneys, first thing they want to do is, well, let’s get them in for a debtor’s exam. And in the meantime, we’ll be sending out some interrogatories. Well, interrogatories are written questions that they have to answer under oath. And they ask the same questions generally that they would ask in a deposition, you know: where do you bank? How much do you have and where do you work? Where is your investment account? All those kind of common questions. Or they bringing them in for a deposition and they give them what’s called a subpoena DT, which is subpoena duces tecum, which means bring with you the documents or the records. And they failed to bring them –surprise, surprise.
Joe: [00:10:18] When they get to the deposition, they don’t have any or certainly not 80 or 90 percent of the records they’re supposed to bring in. The ones they bring are incomplete. And the questions they answer are all dancing around the truth, the facts. They always say, oh, you met those bank records. I misunderstood. You wanted all my records. I thought you just wanted my personal checking account. Oh, well, my attorney has those. They’re working on our taxes. And of course, I couldn’t bring tax returns because they’re not complete yet. But as soon as those are done, I’ll really get them to you. And it’s just not effective.
Why Early Depositions Can Be Counterproductive
Joe: [00:10:58] I think that taking an early deposition before you have the answers to at least 80 percent of the questions, and I know this is kind of a strong position, but I think it should be malpractice because the only thing you’re accomplishing with your early deposition is you’re telling the debtor what you know and what you’re after so they can really go hide that information and make it much more difficult, more expensive, if not impossible to get it. So it’s better to get the information by the legal process, have it, then ask the questions to the 20 percent that you don’t have the answers to. You’re probably not going to get the truth, but at least you can get some perjury on the record. So when you do get the answers to those, you get some additional charges that you can hold over their head to encourage them to settle.
Hanna: [00:11:48] Well, that definitely sounds like a plan. I’ve also heard of people saying, show me your key ring and then explain what every key opens. I guess that could be another shortcut.
Joe: [00:11:58] Oh, yeah. It’s like taking a Rolex off of them during the deposition. We’ve done that before, too. But there are a lot of tools and we could spend weeks, if not months talking about them. But they all work to various degrees.
Best Strategy for Locating Debtor Assets
Hanna: [00:12:12] Right, exactly. And that’s I think, the part of the challenge, is that there’s no one size fits all. If someone has a judgment, let’s say it’s a money judgment. I understand your recommendations for pursuing these are a little bit different than the normal approach to judgment enforcement. So tell me, what steps would you take and why are they more effective than what people typically would do?
Joe: [00:12:39] Well, like, the example I just gave you before, we typically hire and supervise the attorneys for our clients so that we know exactly what’s going to be done in the case and when and agree and make them a part of our team to enforce the judgment. So we do the financial forensic research around the world, and I mean that literally not trying to sound big time, but if it’s offshore money and assets that are offshore, you know, that is not a deterrent. It’s just another hook to jump through. But we do the research. We find where their bank accounts are legally and in strict compliance with the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act.
Financial Forensic Research Necessary for Successful Judgment Recovery
Joe: [00:13:20] We know where to have the attorney send the subpoenas for the bank accounts and the garnishment. So you never garnish an account unless you send a subpoena for at least 24 to 36 months for all the credits and debits, including wire transfers. And when you get that, you get every source of income that they have that’s gone into that account. And then from the debits, you see their wire transfers and the checks that are written to move money into other accounts, you see where they’ve invested in real estate, you see where they’ve invested in the stock market and who their broker is. And they get the next subpoena and garnishment and you start getting a roadmap of their financial resources, where the money’s coming from.
Joe: [00:14:08] If they’re making deposits for oil and gas income, you don’t want the monthly check. You want to own the oil and gas royalties. So you see where they came from. You trace it back and then garnish those royalties or get a turnover order form, so you own the oil and gas rights not the monthly check. Same thing, if they’re getting deposits from rental whether it’s commercial rental or residential rental, you don’t want the rental checks. You want to own the rental property. So you find out where it came from, what the check was for, and you go take the property. If there’s a lien on the property, you want to get the loan application, the support documents, the tax returns, and financial statements that go with those loan applications. And it just keeps continuing to grow and grow and grow exponentially. So getting this stuff is not impossible.
Joe: [00:15:00] It’s looking at the various places, then working with the attorneys to get the properly worded subpoenas to get the result you want. So you do want to garnish the bank account. You do want to take what’s in it, but more importantly, you want the intelligence that you can gather from those credits and debits.
How to Side-Step Judgment Recovery Delay Tactics
Hanna: [00:15:17] Well, that’s definitely a pretty comprehensive plan. I’ll be devil’s advocate here for a second Joe, what about the delay tactics? What about the person who’s really not? Well, they obviously, in order to get embroiled in a lawsuit and lose and not settle ahead of time, they’re not one to be playing by all the rules anyway, as far as I’m concerned, in my experience.
Joe: [00:15:17] Exactly.
Hanna: [00:15:42] So you’ve got somebody who really doesn’t want to fess up to a judgment and they’re going to try and hide their assets. So one of their tactics is going to be to delay and stall on giving you the information that you need in order to trace and locate the assets. How do you deal with the timing issue in order to narrow that so that they don’t have time to hide it or if they are hiding it, getting to that?
Joe: [00:16:10] Well, first of all, I never asked the bad guy for what I want. That’s what the attorneys do. You know, bring me all your records and tell me the truth. Well, don’t even go there. I get my information from third parties and we get it legally with subpoenas and garnishments in forensic research. So we go to the source. We get the records legally with court orders if we have to, before the bad guys often even know we’re coming and we get a massive amount of information before we ever put anything in the public record or with the courts by filing the subpoenas.
Joe: [00:16:47] So once we hit, I like to have what I like to call a D-day where it all hits within one or two days. And we hit everything with, you know. We may have 20 subpoenas issued at one time, served by 20 different processors and maybe in 15 different counties in five different states. But when you hit that, it’s too late for them to start hiding and moving that stuff. And if they do, keep in mind, everything they move leaves a trail. And when they start moving it, it’s fraudulent transfers so you can unwind it all. Money always leaves a trail. Real estate leaves a trail. So you document the money trail and the document trail and you get your information.
Joe: [00:17:34] You don’t ask the bad guy to tell you something. You tell them. We know now about your 15 offshore accounts that you have put around the world. How would you like to handle settling this case?
Hanna: [00:17:47] Well, that’s when you want to be a spider on the wall to see their face, right?
Joe: [00:17:51] Well, yeah, it’s fun to do that. And generally, we do it in person. We may be standing on their front porch or we may be at the courthouse, but where ever it’s done, yeah, I’d like to see their face and I like for them to see mine so that we know that we’re not playing games with each other. We’re here to take care of business and we’re going to take care of business. How much pain do you want me to inflict?
The Accident that Changed Joe’s Life
Hanna: [00:18:17] Well, I can definitely tell by the sound of your voice that this is something that you enjoy doing and you’re very good at it. So let me ask you, Joe. You’ve had you’ve had some amazing experiences that I and I’m sure over a drink, it would be fun to hear some of your war stories, some of the cases that really stand out in your mind. But I’m just really wondering about you, Joe Dickerson, and some of the experiences that you’ve had that have influenced you over the years. Help me understand and get a better perspective of who you are. Is there one influencer you could share with us in the few minutes that we have remaining?
Joe: [00:18:58] Yeah, I guess so. And it’s probably not what you would expect. Of course, when I was a kid, I always wanted to either be a minister or a law enforcement officer. Go figure that. And having gone to Methodist Junior College and so forth, I decided that I didn’t want to stand in the pulpit and try to tell people how to lead their lives. So I took the law enforcement route and right after I had left law enforcement to run my own business that I had developed as off duty work. When I was a police officer, I was at the point where I was making four to five times as much off duty as I was on duty. So I never wanted to have a conflict of interest or perceived conflict.
Joe: [00:19:39] So I was running my business. I’d hired a new employee. Part of his compensation as vice president of one of our divisions was to have a company car. And so I had bought him a Volvo station wagon because he had a couple of youngsters and he wanted a station wagon. So we’re going in the freeway in Houston one day to meet with a client and also run by the bank and deposit a little check that we had, and having a conversation on, er should we go try to catch the client before lunch, or should we go in downtown? It’s 11:20. So what do you think? Well, if we go over to his office, you know, we don’t have a time appointment, he said any time today. So let’s go on downtown, go through the drive thru, drop this little check. I’ll get us something to eat and we’ll catch him after lunch.
Joe: [00:20:26] So we stayed on the freeway rather than get up on the loop at the intersection of what they call the mousetrap or the spaghetti bowl, depending on where you are. But it’s where the major freeways intersect. And at that time, there was only one loop around Houston, Loop 610. So as we were going under the Loop and my employee was driving his wagon that we’ve got for him, as we were going under the Loop, we had the most horrendous impact on our car.
Joe: [00:20:59] We couldn’t tell if we were going forward, backwards, or sideways, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see your hand in front of your nose. I instinctively opened the door and held my head out, gasping for air. It was about 100 yards down the freeway before Ernie could get the car stopped and by then he couldn’t get out of the car. I opened the door, fell up against the car, looked back over my shoulder, and here’s this big cloud coming toward us. It looked like the bombs that you would see when you were in the movie theaters between the features or the news reels of the bombs during the war.
Joe: [00:21:36] And with the help of a young man that was on the service road, he came over and helped me get Ernie into his pickup truck and we got into a hospital. It was about two or three blocks down the street. So we were the first ones in the hospital. And I fell up against the wall in the emergency room and I said, I think the freeway fell. There’s going to be lots of people. Next thing I remember, they were tearing my clothes off and flooding me with water. And the next thing I remember, I was in a hospital bed and Ernie was in the next bed over with gobs of cotton taped over his eyes.
Joe: [00:22:09] And make a long story short, we didn’t know until nearly . . . well, first of all, we found out within a matter of a few hours that on the upper level of the freeway of the Loop that was coming around, there was a tractor trailer coming from our industrial area out by the ship channel where all the refineries and chemical plants was. And this truck was going to go outbound on the freeway. We were going inbound. So he was on the top level and he started to circle around to come down to the ground level. He was going a little too fast, is load shifted in the trailer that he was pulling and it carried him through the air three levels down.
Joe: [00:22:52] The cab of the truck hit the cargo area of our station wagon, cut it off his trailer, hit the ground, exploded, killed seven people at the scene. And ultimately, there were, the last I heard and this was in 1976, last I heard there were about 20 or a few more than that had died. And it was all from ammonia inhalation. He was carrying a truckload of ammonia and most of the people that died were not killed in the actual wreck. Several were. Most of them jumped out of their cars in the traffic jam, ran to the low places in the bar ditches alongside the freeway, and the ammonia being heavier than air came down on top of them and killed. The rest of them were in their homes or in their hospitals for some up close to 20 years before they passed away being in a vegetative state. And to this day is the worst accident in Houston’s history.
Joe: [00:23:59] And we found out after the Federal Transportation Administration Safety Board did their investigation. And, of course, they investigated common carriers just like they do airplane wrecks because they’re licensed under the federal government. And their investigation revealed that this truck and load of ammonia hit the back of our car rather than the front seat by less than two tenths of one second if we were doing 55 miles an hour. And I just glanced over at the speedometer and thank God Ernie was doing 58 miles an hour in a 55 zone, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation in Hanna.
Joe: [00:24:41] I tell you; I’ve talked to my boss man upstairs many times about why he left me here and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. And I have come to the conclusion that as we have been able to develop this rather unique skill set that I think helps a lot of people recover their losses and right the wrongs that have been done to them, that my job is to not only do that, but now to try to teach and train as many people as I can on how to do this. And I take a lot of young investigators under my wing and mentor them if they want me to. And I want to spread out this skill set as far as I can, as long as it’s done legally and ethically and for the good of humanity.
Joe: [00:25:32] I think when people lose their life savings to a fraudster, it’s a sin besides just being wrong. And I want to play my part in correcting that. And I think that’s why the boss left me here and that’s what the rest of my life is dedicated to doing. So that was a long answer to a short question, but it’s not a quick way to explain that. It’s rather significant.
Hanna: [00:25:56] Well, that’s quite an experience that you had, Joe, and I’m really glad that you were able to survive it and didn’t have any kind of long-term injuries because it sounds like some of the people, even though they survived, their quality of life was severely changed.
Hanna: [00:26:11] I’m glad you’re here. And I’m really delighted that you’re able to do this asset recovery work. It is a very important part of the process. And in being able to achieve justice and make people whole again, because it’s a horrific experience, if somebody has been defrauded, had a breach of contract or any type of civil action that results in damages, I mean, there’s a reason why the law provides for that type of remedy. But it’s only half the remedy. If you can’t enforce it, it’s a hollow victory. And so being able to put the rubber to the road and have you do that is wonderful.
Book and Contact Info
Hanna: [00:26:49] The fact that you’re sharing your knowledge through your book, the Diagnostic and Prescriptive Judgment Enforcement book, we have a link to it on our episode page and available on Amazon and other booksellers Joe?
Joe: [00:27:04] Yes, ma’am.
Hanna: [00:27:05] OK, very good. So check your favorite book seller, ask them for it. Again, the name is Diagnostic and Prescriptive Judgment Enforcement. The author, Joe Dickason. So glad he’s here. And if you happen to need help and forcing a judgment, Joe, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
Joe: [00:27:24] Well, my email is Joe at FinancialForensicServices.com. That’s the name of our firm Financial Forensic Services. Our switchboard number here at headquarters is 303-974-5610. Give us a ring if you have a judgment. If you just want to discuss no charge for talking about it. And I’ll tell you the truth to the best of my ability, whether it’s good news or bad news, if I can’t answer your questions, I’ll find somebody that can.
Hanna: [00:27:58] Well, that’s all anybody can ask for Joe.
Joe: [00:28:01] Thank you so much for having me on your show.
Hanna: [00:28:03] Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and your experience. You are a wealth of information when it comes to this topic. It’s a very special niche and sadly, it’s one that business owners, executives, and managers need to know about because it’s not just a matter of, well, let’s sue him and be done with it. I mean, there’s a lot of steps to it even before you get to the judgment and even then the job’s not done. I’m glad that we have Joe Dickerson to help with that process.
Joe: [00:28:33] Thank you for having me. It’s been delightful to be with you and your listeners today.
Hanna: [00:28:36] That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest, you can go to our website at BusinessConfidentialRadio.com. It’s got a lot of other powerful information and resources available to help your business grow. So be sure to check that out. The website again is BusinessConfidentialRadio.com.
Hanna: [00:28:58] I’m Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now. Have a great rest of the day and an even better tomorrow.
Guest: Joe Dickerson
Joe Dickerson is a domestic and international judgment enforcement expert and instructor who helps individuals and businesses enforce civil judgments in the U.S. and around the world as CEO of Financial Forensic Services, LLC. He also trains people on how to do asset recovery.
His relevant experience in helping victims recover money runs deep and includes being a former Detective Sergeant of the Houston Police Department in Texas, and founding member of Houston’s Harris County District Attorney’s Organized Crime Bureau.
He has also taken the lessons he’s learned over the years and put it in writing in his international best-selling book, Diagnostic & Prescriptive Judgment Enforcement: The New Model for Judgment Recovery.
I wish I had known about Joe’s book several years ago. As an attorney I know first-hand how difficult it can be to collect on a judgment. In one case I had many years ago I sent a judgment to the local Sheriff’s office to execute. Whenever I called about it I was told “don’t you worry, we have 30 days to execute that order.” I had someone from the office drive by the business and they confirmed it was still up and running. BUT on the 30th day when the Sheriff’s office went to do their job they found crickets. There was a padlock on the door. The lights were out. The place was empty- cleaned out.
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