A Russian-American businesswoman who filed for bankruptcy two weeks after she arrived in Westchester County has disappeared after federal authorities demanded evidence of her income and activities.
Anna Amstel, who has also gone by the names Anna Kotlyar and Anna Legat, filed a Chapter 7 liquidation petition Jan. 9 in federal bankruptcy court in White Plains.
She claimed $183,123 in unsecured liabilities, consisting mostly of taxes owed to the IRS and New York State, and $2,200 in personal property. She declared her parents’ home in Irvington as her residence.
But federal authorities have found omissions and peculiarities in her bankruptcy petition.
“The debtor did not disclose that she has an apartment, business and bank account in Russia,” U.S. Trustee William K. Harrington said in an adversarial complaint filed July 13. “According to her petition, she lives in Westchester County, when in fact she lives in Russia.”
Harrington has asked bankruptcy court to deny Amstel’s petition to discharge debts for concealing assets and making false oaths.
Another trustee, Marianne O’Toole, and IRS revenue officer Anthony Camaj, questioned Amstel at length at a March hearing in Manhattan.
Amstel said she became a U.S. citizen in 2001. The federal and state tax debts are on income earned in 2006 and 2007 from buying contemporary Russian art in New York and selling it to people in Russia. In 2007, for instance, she made about $160,000.
She was divorced in 2008, a house in Irvington was sold and she “ended up with nothing.”
She has been a self-employed designer for the past nine years, according to the bankruptcy petition.
But she testified at the hearing that she had no income from 2007 to 2017. From 2009 to 2014, for instance, she ran a business known as Anja Amstel that was registered in Russia as Amstel Project but made very little money.
“It was barely enough to live on,” she said, and “it was not enough to pay my debt.”
Now she designs and tailors women’s apparel for a Moscow shop, Ostojenka Bespoke, making about $2,200 a month. Her earnings are deposited in a Moscow bank account.
She said Ostojenka Bespoke is owned by the father of her son – now about four years old – to whom she is not married.
Government officials were curious about 40 pages of travel stamps, sometimes four or five stamps per page, on her U.S. passport.
Amstel said she travels to Zurich and Frankfurt for business, buying fabrics and fur for tailoring jobs.
“Who pays for your travel?” O’Toole asked.
She replied that her parents in Irvington pay for personal travel and her son’s father pays for work trips.
She has not filed U.S. tax returns since 2007, she said, because she has had no income and most of the time was not in the country.
For bankruptcy purposes, O’Toole said at the hearing, Amstel would have to be in the U.S. 205 days a year.
The government demanded that she provide bank statements for the past two years, a legible copy of her passport and a closing statement for the sale of the Irvington property.
Amstel has not provided the documents and she has missed four scheduled hearings in four months.
Her attorney, Alla Kachan, Brooklyn, notified O’Toole in May that she had heard from Amstel only once after the hearing.
“Since then we have been unable to contact the debtor by phone or email, after numerous attempts,” she wrote on May 17. “It seems that we have exhausted all possible avenues of contacting our client.”
On May 21, according to a court record, Amstel asked Kachan by email to stop representing her. Kachan has filed a motion to allow her to withdraw from the case.