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Cristina Garcia’s Campaign Manager Leo Briones Filed Bankruptcy While Making $45,000 Per Month

Loe Briones. From Centaur North.

BY BRIAN HEWS

Leo Briones, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia’s long-time campaign manager, likes to lead a lavish lifestyle, living in a $1.3 million-dollar 4,000 square foot mansion near Friendly Hills Golf Course in Whittier, driving expensive cars, and hob-nobbing with elected officials at lavish parties in Southern California and in Sacramento.

The ex-husband of former senator and assemblywoman Martha Escutia, Briones once worked as an aide to Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon, leaving in 1994 shortly after complaints that he verbally abused constituents.

His company, Centaur North Strategies, a campaign marketing firm open since 1996, had reported income of $1.33 million in 2012, the year he managed Garcia’s successful Assembly campaign.

From March-August 2013, Centaur North’s net income was $169,000; during the same time period Briones took in W-2 payroll wages of $72,000.

All tolled, Briones was taking home a hefty $43,500 per month, bolstered by a $33,000 payment sometime after Jan. 2013 from Assemblywoman Garcia.

Yet somehow, just months later, the self-proclaimed “big shot” of Sacramento walked down to the United States Bankruptcy Court and declared financial insolvency.

Hews Media Group-Los Cerritos Community News has obtained documents that show Briones declared Chapter 13 bankruptcy in September 2013; he will remain in fiscal purgatory until Feb 2019.

It is unknown if Asm. Garcia is aware of the bankruptcy, Garcia’s Communications Director Teala Schaff has not returned HMG-LCCN emails for months.

 

Declaration of bankruptcy showing Briones’ name.

 

His home was under threat of foreclosure for over 15 months, from June 2012 to Sept. 2013, Briones somehow unable to cut $114,000 in mortgage payment checks while raking in $43,500 per month.

Briones was represented in court by Bert Briones, a likely relative who would not answer emails about certain questionable transactions, but did attempt to intimidate HMG-LCCN in a phone message.

According to the court documents, Briones did quite well in the proceeding, erasing his $165,000 second mortgage while managing to claim negative disposable income thus keeping future disposable earnings shielded from the court.

Questionable Omission of Income

In Chapter 13 proceedings, the previous six months income is submitted by the filer in order to calculate average monthly income.

The average income figure is subtracted from “claimed” monthly expenses to arrive at disposable income.

If the monthly disposable income is positive, the bankruptcy court can seize and disperse the entire amount to creditors.

Briones filed bankruptcy in September 2013, with the court accepting his claimed W-2 and business income from March 2013 to August 2013.

The documents claimed that Briones had zero business income in April 2013; in the months prior to and after the zero-business income claim in April, Briones netted over $78,000.

The documents also claimed that Briones had zero W-2 income in May 2013; in the months prior to and after the zero W-2 claim in May, Briones’s payroll checks totaled $27,500.

 

Briones’ stated income showing zero W-2 income in May 2013 (top) and zero business income in April 2013. Briones still claimed $30,000 in monthly expenses during the time period.

 

Briones’ claim of zero income from his business and W-2 activities proved to very lucrative.

Chapter 13 proceedings allow filers to calculate average monthly expenses, which, in Briones’ case, included his average monthly business expenses.

According to the documents, Briones’ claimed monthly expenses of $45,711; with the two months at zero income, Briones’ average income totaled $40,387, equating to a negative disposable income of $5,324 per month.

Without the two months at zero income, Briones’ disposable income would have been $48,464 meaning the court could have required Briones to give over $33,000 annually to be dispersed to creditors.

HMG-LCCN sent an email to Leo Briones September 23rd inquiring about the zero-business income and the zero W-2 income.

Leo Briones did not return the email, but HMG-LCCN received a phone message from Bert Briones the next day, September 24.

Bert Briones clearly indicated that Leo Briones received and forwarded the HMG-LCCN email to him.

And in the same message, Bert Briones attempted to intimidate HMG-LCCN saying, “Yeah Mr. Hews, this attorney Bert Briones, I am responding to your email, you can call me at 949-527-3537 and just so you know I am recording this message I am leaving you and if you call me I would require that the phone call be recorded. Ok, all I can tell you here is that everything in the bankruptcy petition is 100% truthful, you know, submitted under penalty of perjury of the court and that this has been a successful reorganization which was necessary as you know due to arrearages in mortgage payments.”

HMG-LCCN attempted to contact Leo and Bert Briones in several additional emails without response.

Scott Talkov of the Riverside based law firm of Reid and Hellyer, a noted bankruptcy litigation expert who represents trustees, creditors, and debtors in Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcies including appeals to the Ninth Circuit and Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy appellate panel told HMG-LCCN, “mortgage arrears are the most common reason that individuals file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but creditors commonly allege that self-employed debtors are hiding their income. It can be a game of cat-and-mouse.”

Meanwhile, an examination of Garcia’s campaign finance report shows that Garcia has paid Briones over $85,000 in 2018 which could be shielded from disposable income disbursements to creditors. Briones was paid $10,000 in February; $13,000 in March; $26,000 in April; $10,000 in May; $10,000 in June; and $15,000 July-September.

 

 

 

 

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