Guest contribution - The end of our family's nightmare

By Bobbie Singh-Allen | Guest contribution | 

I understand that in our cynical political climate, some will seek to exploit my hardships for political gain. With that in mind, I would share my story. 

Three weeks ago, my personal nightmare came to an end.

As my friends and family, even my parents and adult sons, read my story, it will be the first they have ever heard of it. I am a very private person, but my story is real, and it is time to share it.

In 2005 I was living the American dream. My husband, Jake, and I were raising two little boys in our dream house. I had established a successful small business consulting for the real estate development industry. Jake was growing his own business as a real estate broker, expanding his payroll. Our oldest son, born 5 years earlier on my birthday, had survived massive heart surgery as a newborn. We were so blessed to have health insurance covering the more than $1 million in bills and the lifetime of care he required. Life was good—my American dream.

I will never forget the day it all changed. Jake was in the office, covering for his business manager who had taken time off. It took him 20 minutes to sign the stack of certified letters from the Internal Revenue Service. More than $300,000 in missing payroll tax payments. Jake had made each and every payment. He personally signed every check for our business manager. A call to the bank and a detailed review of our records exposed the reality of our situations. Jake's business manager had "washed" the IRS checks, changing the payee line herself and her creditors, embezzling the payroll tax payments for Jake and his employees.

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In the ensuing days, I did everything you're supposed to do as a victim of crime. We gathered all of our records, called the police, and hired lawyers to help us navigate the process. We were good people, we did everything right, we were the victims, it would all work out.

Days became weeks, then months, then years. The police could not find the business manager and had no one to arrest. The lawyers said we had no case against the bank or other claims to pursue. The IRS-it wanted its money, and it was relentless.

The money taken was not our savings. Like many small business owners, we made a steady but modest living, saving what we could. It would have been easier if she had just taken the savings. It was now 2008, we owed the IRS over $300,000 with new fees and interest being tacked on regularly, and we worked in the real estate industry. Just as our income began to dry up at the start of the great recession, the IRS started to take every penny it could find. Every year brought a new tax lien. Every year we threw what we money we could come up with into the black hole that was the ever-growing tax debt. We fell further and further behind.

The first loss was a small rental property we owned. The tenant could not pay the rent, and we did not have a dime to spare. The bank took the rental, but the tax liens remained. We filed for bankruptcy. The tax debt continued to grow. College fund, retirement savings-all gone. I was ashamed, so I hid our problems from everyone.

Jake and I were committed to several principles from the beginning of the crisis. One, our employees were not responsible for our problems. We would never miss payroll, never underpay, never fudge on withholding. Two, we had to maintain health insurance coverage to ensure our son’s ongoing care. Three, we would do everything possible to ensure housing stability for our boys.

It was hard. With my son's pre-existing condition, our health insurance premiums exceeded $3,000 per month. Income was modest. We moved money around to stay afloat-fall behind on this bill to catch up with that one, balance the late fees as best we can.

I never told anyone how desperate things were. The big change jar in the kitchen-it paid for groceries when the money did not stretch far enough. The beautiful family heirloom jewelry I stopped wearing-sold to make ends meet. Just keep marching forward, but do not tell anyone.

Our lives changed when a job with health benefits came along. The end of $3,000 premiums meant we were finally moving in the right direction, climbing out of the pit. We were blessed that a new job in the tourism industry provided opportunities for free or low-cost travel. A friend with a condo in Hawai’i and frequent flyer points meant memorable times with our boys as they finished high school.

Last month, Jake and I declared our independence with one final six-figure payment to the IRS. Our nightmare was over. I was as relieved that the debt was gone as I was that my secret, my shame, was gone.

But I was also proud. Proud of our marriage for surviving and thriving despite enormous pressure. Proud that my sons never went without food or shelter. Proud that we paid every bill, even in bankruptcy, never depriving anyone else of what we owed. Proud that through it all, we remained generous, continuing to give our time and talents to support our community and the causes that we cared about.

Looking back, I realize that our story is not so unique. The details may differ, but small business owners throughout our community have shared our experience. You struggle through circumstances you cannot always control, especially now during the pandemic-induced recession. You commit to your values and cling to the ones you love, praying that persevering through the nightmares will help you realize your dreams. I keep a binder to remind me of the details-the misappropriated checks, the letters from lawyers and creditors, all of the details of my genuine nightmare.

To my friends, thank you for caring for me on dark days when you had no idea what it meant. To my family, I am sorry I did not let you walk this road with me. To the people of our community: we all carry a burden, some visibly and some in hearts. Let's commit to helping carry each others’ loads free of shame and judgment.

And to Jake, who poured his heart and soul into our 15-year journey, thank you, I love you. We made it.

Ms. Singh-Allen is a candidate for Elk Grove Mayor. 

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Spoons and Forks said...

If this is meant to invoke sympathy, or even empathy, why the reference to a Hawaiian vacation? There are families who just struggle getting out of their financial hole just to get their car working to get to a job.

I had considered voting for Bobbie, but know I am not so sure. I'll never skip a ballot selection, so maybe a write-in protest vote will be in order.

Atticus Finch said...

"some will seek to exploit my hardships for political gain. With that in mind, I would share my story."

Mrs. Singh-Allen is exploiting her own hardships for political gain. Pretty obvious. Too much does not add up in her story. One final six figure payment to the IRS?

Atticus Finch said...

"some will seek to exploit my hardships for political gain. With that in mind, I would share my story."

Mrs. Singh-Allen is exploiting her own hardships for political gain. Pretty obvious. Much of her story does not add up. One final six figure payment? Really?

Josie said...

That story has more holes than Swiss cheese.......

Josie said...

That story has more holes than Swiss cheese........

Dumbledore said...

I think what she is referring to when she says that some will exploit her story for political gain is that people or persons against her are using her bankruptcy as a way to show that she can’t be a good leader. I believe this article is meant to “clear the air” and set the record straight. Phish because someone goes through a hardship for 15 years doesn’t mean they stop living their lives. She was able to make a vacation happen due to a job the allowed her to travel, saved miles, and the use of a friend's vacation home. This article isn’t that difficult to understand. So stop trying to nit-pickthe supposed “holes” in the story.

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