A 50-year-old businessman from Sacramento County, California has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for hiding significant assets during his divorce and subsequent bankruptcy. His fraudulent activity, which included laundering millions of dollars of income and concealing valuable assets by listing them under different names, seemingly stemmed from his desire to avoid paying child support and alimony to his ex-wife.
Steve K. Zinnel and his wife separated in 1999, but the drawn-out process of their contentious divorce led to years of mounting tension. In 2001, Zinnel sent an angry email to his wife informing her that he was going to file for bankruptcy and that she wouldn't receive anything - not even child support for their two children.
By July 2005, Zinnel had filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition, but not before concealing millions of dollars in assets. Afterwards, he continued to launder money in an effort to evade potential child support and alimony payments.
Although Zinnel's illegal activities went undetected for years, his vindictive nature ultimately led to his downfall. In an attempt to wreak further havoc in the life of his ex-wife, Zinnel contacted the FBI and requested that the bureau investigate her. When the FBI followed up on his allegations, they uncovered Zinnel's own bankruptcy crimes and hidden assets.
On March 4, 2014, Zinnel was sentenced to 17 years and 8 months in prison, a $500,000 fine, and an order to forfeit his U.S. corporate assets and real estate - valued at more than $2.8 million. The U.S. District Judge who delivered the sentence, Troy L. Nunley, also had a clear message for Zinnel: "You don't lie before a court of law. You don't continue to lie, which is what you did."
Another hearing is scheduled for March 31, when Nunley will sentence Zinnel's co-defendant, attorney Derian Edison, for her involvement in his crimes. Edison allowed Zinnel to launder money through her company, her attorney-client trust account, as well as her personal bank account.