Settlement reached in Oliver Lawrence bankruptcy case

richmond federal courthouse

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. (Kieran McQuilkin)

Ten months after he was accused of a scheme to defraud creditors in a bankruptcy case, a notorious Richmond landlord has agreed to a settlement that federal regulators expect to secure payment to those he owes.

Oliver Lawrence, who filed for bankruptcy protection for two estates in January 2017, has agreed to pay the bankruptcy trustee $900,000 in installments over two years, with his Hanover County residence serving as collateral.

The settlement with Peter Barrett, a Kutak Rock attorney serving as the trustee in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, also allows Barrett to take legal action against any other property owned by Lawrence, his wife Kim or his various businesses until the agreement’s terms are fulfilled.

The two-year window is subject to extension with Barrett’s consent, and the agreement allows Lawrence to void the agreement in the event he is denied discharge of debts. According to the agreement, if Lawrence complies with its terms, he could be discharged from the case, meaning he no longer would be liable for any remaining debt.

The settlement avoids a trial that had been scheduled to start Monday and results from court-ordered mediation conducted last month before Frank Santoro, a U.S. bankruptcy judge. Fellow bankruptcy judge Kevin Huennekens was to preside over the trial and authorized the settlement in a hearing held Wednesday.

The settlement resolves a complaint Barrett made in February alleging that Lawrence plotted with Kim to move money and assets between them in an effort to keep those assets from the reach of creditors.

Those assets include their 25-acre Ashland home, which the complaint cited as an example of a years-long scheme in which the couple put their assets under Kim’s name following Lawrence’s conviction in 2009 of multiple violations related to his home rental business.

The couple transferred ownership of the 7,000-square-foot home from Lawrence to Kim in 2010. A county assessment most recently valued the home at $894,300, according to Hanover property records.

The complaint also alleged that one of Lawrence’s businesses, Chamberlayne Auto Sales & Repair (CASR), was strategically put under Kim’s name as owner, even though Oliver effectively ran it and two other businesses listed in the case: Auto Center Holdings, tied to a business that operated on Westover Hills Boulevard, and LBKBL Properties, the home rental business.

CASR represents one of the two estates involved in the bankruptcy proceedings. The other is Lawrence’s estate as an individual.

When those two bankruptcy petitions were filed last year, CASR listed just over $559,000 in liabilities and about $3,800 in assets, while Lawrence’s individual petition claimed nearly $104,000 in liabilities and over $20,000 in assets.

LBKBL was the latest iteration of Lawrence’s home rental business, according to the complaint, which notes he did business under previous entities LSU LLC and Bayou Properties LLC. At the time of his meeting with creditors last year, Lawrence said his home rental business totaled over 1,200 properties.

Unique sentencing

After Lawrence’s 2009 conviction, in which he was ordered to serve 30 days in jail followed by 40 days in one of his rundown properties, Lawrence formed LBKBL in Kim’s name, the complaint stated, “solely to elude the legal and financial obligations (Oliver) Lawrence accrued during his prior businesses.”

Lawrence’s holdings through the years have included three properties on East Grace Street once referred to as “Little Baghdad.” Those buildings went to the auction block in 2010 and were later purchased in 2016 in a $2.07 million deal. At least seven of his other properties went to foreclosure auction in 2013.

Two more business entities tied to Lawrence – Copra House LLC and Copra House Properties LLC – later were added to the bankruptcy proceedings in an amended complaint.

According to the complaint, Lawrence told creditors during that meeting that he claimed no assets. But the complaint said that Kim, a pharmacist at a Richmond-area hospital, claimed a total of $18.45 million in assets and $2.53 million in debts, making her total net worth at the time nearly $16 million.

In his response to the complaint, Lawrence denied several sections of the complaint and admitted others, including Kim’s employment and income, and that Kim was the sole member and owner of LBKBL, and that Lawrence managed the majority of its business affairs.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Yvette Taylor, a creditor in the case, argued that Lawrence should not be allowed to be eligible for discharge of debts. She said afterward she’s owed and trying to collect $5,000 from Lawrence for a vehicle she bought from CASR that continually broke down.

“I don’t think he should be discharged,” Taylor told Judge Huennekens. “I don’t want that to happen. That is not fair.”

Huennekens told Taylor the goal of the settlement is to ensure that funds are provided through the estates to pay her and other creditors, though he said that Taylor was free to file a formal complaint.

Kutak Rock attorney Jeremy Williams presented the settlement agreement representing Barrett, who also was represented in the case by Thomas Domonoske with Newport News-based Consumer Litigation Services.

Robert Hill of Colonial Heights law firm Hill & Rainey Attorneys represented Lawrence, CASR and the other business entities included in the case. Kim was represented Todd Knode and John Moore of Coates & Davenport and Glen Allen-based attorney James Wilson Jr.

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