Records reveal Gomery’s finances
Financial troubles as shown in a recent bankruptcy filing may have been a motive for Bingham Township resident and attorney Clarence K. Gomery’s alleged attempt to hire a hit man to kill another attorney.
Gomery, who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in April, was arrested in Leelanau County on July 14 after details of his alleged plot to have attorney Christopher Cooke killed came to light. He is charged with solicitation to commit murder and remains in jail in Grand Traverse County on a $5 million cash/surety bond.
Gomery, 59 and a former Leelanau County Prosecutor, had initially planned to represent himself, but has since hired Traverse City attorney Paul T. Jarboe of Jarboe & Pfeil for the job.
Cooke represented a client who successfully sued Gomery in 2013, leaving him on the hook for $350,000. Of that amount, $315,000 is owed in attorney fees that Gomery was ordered to pay. In that civil case, a jury also found that Gomery had committed fraud and malpractice.
The plaintiff, Fred Topous Jr., was Gomery’s business partner in a deal-gone-bad in which Topous purchased a Traverse City golf course. In that deal, Gomery apparently convinced Topous to make him a 50 percent partner, though Gomery never paid for the property.
Topous had previously won $57 million in the state lottery.
In his bankruptcy petition, Gomery claimed that he has about $1.68 million in estimated assets and more than $500,000 in estimated liabilities. He also indicated on the petition that he estimates funds will be available to pay unsecured creditors.
On July 16, two days after he was arrested, Gomery responded to a motion filed by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Michigan trustee to dismiss the case.
According to that response, filed through Gomery’s Traverse City attorney Paul Bare, Gomery “is working towards resolving all the issues regarding his case” and “needs additional time to accomplish this.”
The joint income for Gomery and his wife, Aileen Gomery, a paralegal in his Traverse City office, is listed in the bankruptcy petition as $105,144 for 2012, $157,241 for 2013 and just $11,250 for the first four months of 2014.
However, there may already be changes in Gomery’s employment status. At the Gomery and Associates office at 423 E. Eighth St. in Traverse City, Gomery’s name has been covered up, with the sign now only listing attorney Jason A. Razavi, a partner in the firm.
According to the bankruptcy petition, the law corporation filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the same time that Gomery filed his personal Chapter 13 petition. The firm named Gomery and Associates was formed and started business on March 7, according to the petition, and has a listed value of $3,113.76.
Razavi did not return a call from the Enterprise.
In Gomery’s petition, Gomery and Associates is listed twice as a creditor. Also listed as creditors are Topous; the Detroit law firm of Dettmer & Dezsi; Bank of America in North Carolina; Members Credit Union in Traverse City and Aileen Gomery.
Michael P. Corcoran, a Traverse City attorney who specializes in bankruptcy, said Gomery’s bankruptcy case will continue, despite the fact that he has been accused of a crime.
“The bankruptcy will continue moving forward, whether or not he is released on bond, convicted or acquitted,” Corcoran said. “He is eligible for relief under the bankruptcy code and it will continue irrespective of his status.”
Corcoran also points to the fact that Gomery has not been convicted of anything yet.
Under bankruptcy law, Gomery’s debt to Topous may be considered “dischargeable,” Corcoran said, as debts of that nature typically are, though he said there may be facts in the case that he is not aware of.
If it is dischargeable, “That will go away — prison or not,” Corcoran said. Debts that are considered non-dischargeable include child support and fines and penalties, he said.
Gomery’s claimed assets on the petition total about $1.68 million and include his 10423 E. Bingham Road home, which is on Grand Traverse Bay, and two lots on Lake Leelanau. None of which have liens filed on them, according to the Leelanau County Register of Deeds office.
Gomery’s home is valued at $658,400, according to the petition, with the two Lake Leelanau lots, whose addresses are listed as 3456 South Stanley Road, given a value of $84,600. He has also listed a $42,430 interest in a Suttons Bay home owned by a relative.
Other assets are listed on the petition as cash, $50; money in a checking and savings account, $19; household goods, $1,000; clothing, $400; and a wedding ring, $450.
Gomery has also listed 401(k), Simple IRA and Leelanau County Money Purchase Plan accounts as holding a combined $238,811.
Of those assets, Gomery is claiming that about $1.03 million are exempt. The federal exemption statute allows for people to claim that certain property is not subject to seizure and sale for distribution to their creditors, Corcoran explained.
“Of course, the trustee and the judge also have a say in that claim,” Corcoran said.