Embattled San Antonio lawyer files massive bankruptcy case

Pettit listed assets of nearly $27.8 million and debts of $115.2 million in his individual Chapter 11 petition, making it one of the largest individual bankruptcy filings ever filed in San Antonio. His company, Chris Pettit & Associatesreported assets valued at up to $50,000.

The filings on Wednesday overshadowed plans by Pettit’s six creditors to file involuntary Chapter 7 lawsuits against him and his business today, said Raymond Battaglia, their bankruptcy attorney in San Antonio.

Pettit and his company’s bankruptcy attorney have indicated he intends to ask the court to appoint a trustee to oversee the debtors’ assets, Battaglia said.

“This case is going to require someone who can trace assets and trace transfers and things that (Pettit) has done with other people’s money over the past two years,” he added.

The bankruptcies come after numerous lawsuits against Pettit and his company, most alleging they stole millions of dollars from clients. He gave sweeping denials in response to some of the lawsuits, but he and his company also reached consent judgment with some plaintiffs who were awarded — at least on paper — millions in economic and punitive damages.

Others claim they lost far less, but still amounts representing their savings.

“It’s just sad,” Battaglia said. “They trusted him, and that’s a shame. As a lawyer, I’m ashamed that someone would do that. Some of these people were in pretty tough situations when he stole their money.

The FBI is also investigating.

Michael Colvard, the San Antonio bankruptcy attorney representing Pettit and his firm, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pettit, 55, specializes in estate planning and personal injury law, according to his firm’s website. He graduated from St. Mary’s University Law School in 1988 and is the single father of a 9-year-old son.

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Pettit has held a variety of positions, including as an attorney, investment advisor and trustee of various trusts, for dozens of clients. In a May 20 consent judgment signed by State District Judge Tina Torres, Pettit and his firm were found guilty of committing fraud, misappropriating property and breaching their fiduciary duties as trustee of a trust.

Torres awarded the plaintiff nearly $1.7 million in economic damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

How Pettit allegedly misappropriated client assets was not detailed. But his personal bankruptcy petition listed numerous residences and vehicles.

Among the assets he reported are:

• A five-bedroom, 5½-bathroom mansion in the upscale Golden Oak community of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The 7,300 square foot home is up for sale for nearly $8.9 million.

• A three-bedroom, 4½-bathroom home in 555 Argyle Avenue in Alamo Heights. The property overlooks the Olmos Dam and is one of the best known residences in the area. It is valued at $3.6 million.

• A four-bed, 4½-bathroom house on Champions Run in Stone Oak. It is valued at $1.8 million.

• A 3000 square foot home on Lakebreeze Drive in Canyon Lake. It is valued at $1.1 million.

• A Port Aransas condominium valued at $640,000.

His real estate, which includes his law office on Huebner Road, is valued at $18 million.

Petitit also said he owns a 2021 Porsche Macan worth $60,000; a 2019 Porsche Panamera, $50,000; a 2019 Mercedes GLS, $55,000; a 2018 Mercedes GL, $40,000; and a 2022 “boat,” $150,000.

He claims the Champions Run property, the Mercedes GLS and numerous household items as elusive to creditors.

Petitt also claimed as exempt a 401(k) valued at about $635,000, an individual retirement account containing about $95,000, and three insurance policies collectively valued at nearly $900,000. (His combined checking and savings accounts are in the red.)

His secured debts, which include mortgages and auto loans, total about $8.9 million.

Most of Pettit’s creditors – numbering nearly 170 – are listed as unsecured. They range from credit card companies to individuals to trusts. While many amounts owed are listed as “unknown,” about 30 unsecured creditors hold claims over $1 million each. Pettit disputes these debts.

The largest claim, listed at $14.4 million, belongs to a San Antonio family partnership.

His petition shows he recently made a $30,000 credit card payment to high-end jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. and a $50,000 payment to a Houston-based commercial real estate lender.

Pettit reported income of $80,000 in the first five months of this year. He had an income of $340,000 last year and about $145,000 in 2020.

His law firm made about $1.3 million in gross revenue in the first five months of this year. It generated around $695,000 in revenue last year and $721,000 in 2020.

Pettit said he and his company are charged in 12 lawsuits, eight of which are ongoing and four have been completed.

The petition did not mention at least two lawsuits filed last week in San Antonio State District Court.

In one, a Colorado man and a trust allege he was “convinced” to allow Pettit to “control” about $3.8 million.

Rather than investing the funds, Pettit transferred the funds directly into his law firm’s operating account and “continued to use those funds” for his “own use and benefit,” the lawsuit says.

“Pettit used his positions as a lawyer, financial adviser, tax preparer, investment adviser, and trustee and custodian of plaintiffs’ money to actively conceal his actions,” the complaint adds. The plaintiffs allege fraud and criminal theft.

In the other lawsuit, a San Antonio man alleges he invested about $975,0000 with Pettit but only got back $24,000. The man said he was assured the money was ‘available for withdrawal at any time’.

Securities and Exchange Commission shows Pettit was a registered investment adviser from April 2015 to September last year. It is not known why it is no longer registered. He had been affiliated with Triad Advisors of Austin.

The Express-News first reported on Pettit’s growing legal troubles on May 19. The day after, he resigned from EF EnergyFunders Ventures Inc., an oil and natural gas investment company. It is a Canadian stock exchange firm based in Calgary but maintains its executive offices in San Antonio.

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