Bel Air payroll company AccuPay files for bankruptcy protection

A Bel Air payroll company under investigation for allegedly not forwarding clients' tax payments to tax collectors has filed for bankruptcy.

AccuPay Inc. filed a petition for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, listing 95 creditors and debts of between $100,001 and $500,000. Chapter 7 allows for an orderly liquidation of a company's assets to pay off creditors.

A bankruptcy attorney for the company's owners said Wednesday that his clients believe they will have funds available to pay creditors. In the bankruptcy filing, the company lists estimated assets of between $100,001 and $500,000.

"The principals believe that there is sufficient money to pay the claims," said James A. Vidmar, the attorney for AccuPay's owner, Beverly Carden. "That's what they think, and that's subject to bankruptcy court procedures."

Carden could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The East Churchville Road firm, which has an estimated 500 to 600 clients, shut down at the end of February after a Bel Air veterinary hospital, Animal Emergency Hospital, accused it in a lawsuit of "repeatedly and regularly" failing to pay or making only partial payments of federal and state withholding and unemployment taxes over the past five years. DuClaw Brewing Co. had filed a complaint last summer.

Three more AccuPay clients — a law firm, another veterinary clinic and a construction company — then filed lawsuits making similar allegations, bringing the total losses alleged in pending complaints to more than $465,000. The company had been sued by other clients for similar claims about five years ago.

Since the recent lawsuits, both the Bel Air Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service have started investigating the firm.

Vidmar, AccuPay's bankruptcy attorney, said he did not know how many of the 95 businesses and individuals listed as creditors are clients. Some of those listed could be owed business expenses, he said.

"There were 95 potential creditors listed, and a lot are probably owed nothing," Vidmar said. "That's got to play out. When the company abruptly stopped, there may have been deposits in the works and payments in the works. There is money there. The bank accounts are there. There's money there to be distributed."

But some creditors worry that relief may come too late to help, or not at all.

Gary Burrows, owner of Honor Star Service Inc. of Dallastown, Pa., an AccuPay client that provides snack services to offices, says his company is out about $23,000 worth of payments that AccuPay was supposed to make last year to the IRS and tax collectors in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

"It's going to be a long, drawn-out thing," Burrows said. "The tax people are going to want to get paid before all this is settled, and being a small company, we just don't have that money laying around."

Vidmar said the bankruptcy trustee assigned to the case has begun working with the company and attempting to secure funds that had been frozen as part of a Harford County judge's order.

Police in Bel Air have said the investigation could involve hundreds of potential victims — any business that hired AccuPay to handle its payroll and remit its state and federal taxes.

lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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