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Craig D. Robins, Esq. New York Bankruptcy Attorney, Longisland bankruptcy attorney

“ Craig D. Robins, Esq., has been a practicing Long Island bankruptcy attorney for over twenty-four years ”

Craig D. Robins, Esq.

Archive for March, 2009

Rate of National Bankruptcy Filings Now Over One Million a Year

Posted on Monday (March 30, 2009) at 12:00 pm to Bankruptcy and Society
Bankruptcy Statistics

order bankruptcy filings across the country have steadily risen to the point that there are now more than one million bankruptcy filers per twelve-month period.” src=”http://longislandbankruptcyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/chart-bankruptcyfilingsdec2008_clip_image002.gif” alt=”Bankruptcy filings across the country have steadily risen to the point that more there are now more than one million bankruptcy filers per twelve-month period.” width=”396″ height=”216″ />

Written by Craig D. Robins, cialis Esq.

A few weeks ago I wrote that bankruptcy filings across the country rose 31 percent in 2008.  (Bankruptcy Filings Surged in 2008).

The number of bankruptcies filed in the twelve-month period ending December 31, 2008, totaled 1,117,771, up from 850,912 bankruptcies filed in 2007.

Filings are now averaging well over one million per year.  Here we have a chart that shows how the numbers are steadily increasing.

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More Pro-Bankruptcy and Consumer Protection Legislation to Stop Credit Card Abuse

Posted on Friday (March 27, 2009) at 11:00 pm to Bankruptcy Legislation

New Senate Bill Seeks to Punish Banks Charging High Rates of Interest on Credit Card Debt
Proposed Senate bill will punish credit card companies that charge high rates of interest on credit card debt.  If enacted, this will help many Long Island consumers thinking of filing for bankruptcy.
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Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
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Revising some of the strict measures imposed by the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act was the subject of a Senate judiciary committee this week. 
 
Senators heard testimony about alleged credit card abuses Tuesday at a hearing to explore whether changes to the Bankruptcy Code are needed to give borrowers more leverage in negotiations with their creditors.  The bill reflects  growing anti-banking sentiment.
 
This proposed Senate bill now aims to undo some of the harsh provisions of the 2005 law.  Dubbed the “Consumer Credit Fairness Act,” it was introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) as Senate Bill 2359. 
 
The proposed legislation is part of a push by Democrats to provide additional protection to consumers who have been taken advantage of for years by the credit card industry.  
 
Senator Make Harsh Statements Against the Credit Card Industry
In his opening statement, Senator Whitehouse criticized the credit card industry and said “the standard credit card agreement gives the lender the power to bleed their customers through evolving and ever more crafty tricks and traps.  The typical credit card agreement, which twenty years ago was a page in length, has grown to a 20-page, small-print contract filled with legalese. In substance, it gives the companies the right to raise interest rates for almost any reason, and in some cases no reason at all.”
 
Possible Revision to the Bankruptcy Means Test
The new bill seeks to exempt some debtors from the requirements of the means test if the credit card company is charging a very high rate of interest.   Under the terms of the proposed Act, if the rate of interest on a debtor’s consumer debts exceed 15 percent plus current rates on 30-year Treasury bonds, they will be able to eliminate these debts in bankruptcy.  Such accounts will be labeled, “high cost consumer credit transactions.”
 
Proposed Law Would Help Long Island Consumers
This bill will have a ways to go before it becomes law.  It would be a great help to many of my Long Island bankruptcy clients who suffer from ridiculously high rates of interest on their credit card accounts.
 
I see a lot of clients who previously had reasonable rates of interest.  However, when they missed one monthly payment, their interest rates would double.  This proposed law is designed to punish the credit card industry for that practice.
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Long Island Bankruptcy Court – Housed in Controversial Architecture

Posted on Monday (March 23, 2009) at 11:27 pm to Central Islip Bankruptcy Court & Judges

The Federal Courthouse building in Central Islip that houses the Long Island Bankruptcy CourtWritten by Craig D. Robins, Esq.

The gleaming white architecture housing the Long Island Bankruptcy Court has been controversial since the building was opened in the fall of 2000.

Designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, the Central Islip building looks like a large, stark, white rectangular monolith with a missile silo in the middle.  The $190 million, 850,000-square-foot-building, at 11-stories tall, is the tallest building in Suffolk County.

After some members of the public complained that the building lacked a warm and fuzzy feeling, Michael Harris Spector, a co-architect of the building, announced that the building was designed to express the “dignity and the authority of the federal government.”

However, some attorneys called the building a “monstrosity,” “ugly and totally out of context,” and “sterile and completely inappropriate,” according to a New York Times article published when the building had just opened.

From the upper floors, looking to the north, you can see a good amount of Long Island. Looking to the south, you can see Fire Island, the Great South Bay, Robert Moses bridge, the lighthouse and the ocean.

The building contains 23 courtrooms, one special proceedings courtroom, 13 District courts, four Magistrate and five Bankruptcy courtrooms. In addition there are spaces for 25 judges chambers, a law library, offices for Federal agencies and a cafeteria. The building is 235 ft. tall and is one of the tallest structures on Long Island.

Entry to the courthouse is via a raised stone podium, with landscaping and reflecting pools, to a conical drum (the so-called missile silo) that leads to an 11-story atrium.

This entrance rotunda is 175 feet tall and devoid of floors, having tapered round walls that are structured out of a huge steel space frame.

According to a description from architectural magazine Archidose, the atrium acts as a focal point and a means of orientation. Public corridors extend from the atrium along the south curtain wall, overlooking the plaza below and the Great South Bay and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. The north side houses the offices and the judge’s chamber: the elevation articulated accordingly with narrow ribbon windows. These two distinct facades are separated by a pair of walls that peak above the adjacent parapets, intersecting the atrium. The distinction between the two sides of the building is both formal and programmatic, acting as a separation between public and judicial circulation.

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If I Make Over $100,000 a Year, Can I Eliminate Credit Cards Debts in Bankruptcy?

Posted on Friday (March 20, 2009) at 12:02 am to Bankruptcy Means Test
Bankruptcy Tips Consumers Should Know
Long Island Economy

Many High Income Families on Long Island are Eliminating Debts with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Passing the Means Test
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Many high-income families on Long Island can eliminate credit card debt in Chapter 7 bankruptcy by passing the means test
 
Written by Craig D. Robins, story Esq.
 
The recession has driven many hardworking Long Island families seeking debt relief to my office, and a good number of the them have family incomes that are in the six-figures.
 
Believe it or not, many of these families qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief and are able to eliminate all of their debts. 
 
The Means Test Actually Helps Some People Become Eligible for Bankruptcy
 
When Congress toughened the bankruptcy laws in 2005, they sought to make it more difficult for some people to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  They did this by requiring anyone seeking Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief to demonstrate eligibility by passing the means test — a bunch of calculations designed to weed out those who appear to have the ability to pay something to their creditors.
 
The Means Test Helps Long Island Homeowners
 
In preparing the means test, debtors can deduct certain expenses.  The greater the deductions, the easier it is to qualify.  The amount that a debtor can deduct for living expenses is very limited unless they own a home that has a mortgage.  In that case, they can deduct the full amount of the mortgage. 
 
Since mortgages on Long Island are usually several thousand dollars a month, this often has the effect of enabling a family  with a six-figure income to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Since so many Long Island consumers own homes with high mortgages, many of them qualify for Long Island Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings.
 
There Are Other Factors Which Make It Easier to Qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Long Island
 
There are many other variables in the means test that enable consumers with high incomes to qualify.  Having many children or dependants, at least two cars with loans or leases, high childcare expenses, high insurance expenses, or high monthly religious donations are all factors that facilitate qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
 
Experienced Bankruptcy Counsel Can Assist Long Island Consumers with Deciphering the Bankruptcy Means Test
 
In the past few months I have filed a number of Chapter 7 bankruptcies for Long Island families who had incomes in the range of $100,000 to over $150,000.  Knowing exactly how to guide the client through the intricacies of the means test can mean eliminating many tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt through bankruptcy with a Chapter 7 filing. 
 
If you are a high-income earner on Long Island, there is a good possibility that you may qualify to eliminate all debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you can utilize the right deductions on the means test.  Feel free to contact our office for a free confidential appointment.
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U.S. Consumers Can’t Pay Their Bills

Posted on Wednesday (March 18, 2009) at 12:30 am to Credit
Long Island Economy

Creditcard defaults reaching all-time highs 

U.S. credit card defaults rise to 20 year-high

Credit card defaults rose last month to their highest level in at least 20 years according to a report just issued by Reuters. This is just one additional indicator of the deepening recession.

American Express, buy cialis the largest U.S. charge card company by sales volume, reported that its net charge-off rate rose to 8.70 percent in February from 8.30 percent in January. A “charge-off” means the company has written the debt off as a loss for accounting purposes.

Meanwhile, Citigroup — one of the largest issuers of MasterCard cards — reported that its default rate soared to 9.33 percent in February, from 6.95 percent a month earlier.

Some experts believe that there will be a continued deterioration. Trends in credit cards will get worse before they start getting better. Some analysts estimate credit card charge-offs could climb to between 9 and 10 percent this year from 6 to 7 percent at the end of 2008.

With so many consumers unable to pay their credit card debt, it is no surprise that bankruptcy filings have increased dramatically on Long Island. Bankruptcy permits consumers to discharge and eliminate credit card bills.

Credit card lenders are trying to protect themselves by tightening credit limits, raising standards, and closing accounts. They have also been slashing rewards, raising interest rates and increasing fees to cushion further losses.

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Long Island Economist Provides More Grave Commentary About the Long Island Economy

Posted on Monday (March 16, 2009) at 10:45 am to Long Island Economy

Long Island economy is graveRecession Hitting Long Island Job Market Hard
 
 
Highly-regarded Long Island economist, Pearl M. Kamer, provided some more insight about the extent of the Long Island recession in a New York Times article published March 12, 2009, entitled, “Feeling Stung by a Layoff; Sowing One’s Own Hope,”
 
“The reason this is not your usual recession is that it’s hitting everybody; no one is safe in their job,” cautioned Pearl M. Kamer, the chief economist for the Long Island Association, a nonprofit group that monitors the health of the business sector.
 
“It’s the end of the economy as we know it,” added Ms. Kamer, speculating that between 35,000 and 50,000 more jobs — on top of 24,100 private sector jobs lost last year — will disappear on Long Island before the economy hits bottom. “Employers are in survivor mode: they’re shedding employees, not hanging on to them.”
 
The New York Times article profiled several Long Islanders who had lost their lost long-time jobs.  She suggested that these Long Islanders and others be prepared for the contagious aspects of the “economic Armageddon,” as the Times reporter referred to our economy.
 
Ms. Kamer said that as of January, 102,200 people were out of work on Long Island, a drastic increase from the 68,800 unemployed a year earlier.
 
I previously detailed some of Ms. Kamer’s comments about the Long Island economy in one of my posts last month, Long Island Economist Predicts Prolonged Long Island Recession .
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How to Eliminate Medical Bills

Posted on Sunday (March 15, 2009) at 5:39 pm to Consumer Advice

Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.

Eliminating medical bills on Long Island.  There is a cure.There is a cure for handling medical debt

The three most common reason consumers file for bankruptcy on Long Island are divorce, loss of a job, and illness.

Un-reimbursed medical debts caused by serious health issues can be overwhelming. Even the medical insurance co-pays can become incredibly costly. And many Long Islanders do not even have sufficient health insurance.

The financial burden of health care on Long Island can definitely challenge your finances. Fortunately, consumers have some options.

Working Out a Payment Arrangement with the Hospital

Many hospitals have special payment arrangements for qualifying low-income individuals. In some cases, hospitals may even consider waiving some of the bill. Hospitals will often give special reductions to anyone who is below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Charitable Hospitals Often Have Special Programs

Many hospitals on Long Island are affiliated with charities. These nonprofit religious and charity-oriented hospitals have special care programs that pick up all or part of the cost of care for indigent or special needs families. Sometimes all it takes is simple phone call to the hospital administrator to find out about these programs.

Negotiating Medical Debt

 Law firms such as ours that specialize in debt relief can negotiate on your behalf to reduce the balance. Frequently, you can reduce medical debts substantially.

Eliminating Medical Debt with Bankruptcy

Even when medical insurance covers most medical expenses, the loss of income from dealing with family illness can strain a person’s finances. When you or a loved one have suffered from an illness, that has left you with medical bills, doctor bills, hospital charges, or any other type of medical debt, you often have the option to resolve those bills in bankruptcy.

Depending on whether you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, medical bills can either eliminated or reduced to pennies on the dollar.

In bankruptcy proceedings, medical debt is the same type of unsecured debt as credit card debt. For those who are eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all unsecured debt can be totally eliminated.

In those cases where Chapter 7 is not a possibility, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy often forces unsecured creditors like medical providers, hospitals, and doctors to accept pennies on the dollar.

Last month, I wrote a post about a new bill that was introduced into Congress which is designed to provide a special safety net for individuals who are in a financial crisis due to a personal or family medical debts.   See my post about the Medical Bankruptcy Fairness Act.

Don’t Ignore Medical Bills

Medical debt is still debt that doctors and hospitals will aggressively seek to collect by suing you. If you ignore medical bills, then it is often a question of time before you will be sued.

However, just like there are cures for illness, there are cures for overwhelming medical debt. Our Long Island bankruptcy lawyers and debt negotiation attorneys help many Long Islanders resolve their medical debts.

If you have hospital bills, medical bills, doctor bills, medical collections, or any other debt problems, don’t wait until you lose everything before you get financial help. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.

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Internet Bankruptcy: Illegal Practice of Law?

Posted on Thursday (March 12, 2009) at 7:31 pm to Bankruptcy and Society
Suffolk Lawyer

 Preparing your bankruptcy petition over the internet can be problematic

Website that prepared bankruptcy petitions engaged in unauthorized practice of law

 by Craig D. Robins, Esq.

Many consumer debtors learn the hard way that they get what they pay for when hiring someone to prepare their bankruptcy petition.

The law is very clear that only an attorney can give legal advice, and this is to protect the public. Yet there are many non-attorneys who offer to prepare bankruptcy petitions for a fee, and many horror stories that go along with this.

There are strict rules about offering bankruptcy legal advice

When Congress gave the Bankruptcy Code a minor overhaul in 1994, it added several consumer protection requirements aimed at non-attorneys who prepare bankruptcy petitions.

The code labels a non-attorney who receives compensation to prepare a bankruptcy petition as “bankruptcy petition preparer” (BPP) and forbids BPPs from offering legal advice, defined as advising the debtor:

     •  Whether to file bankruptcy

     •  Which chapter to file

     •  Whether the debtor will able to keep his or her home

     •  How to characterize the debtor’s assets or debts

     •  About bankruptcy procedures and rights

My first experience with a non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer

In the early 1990’s, a Long Island bankruptcy debtor came to me, literally crying, that he had filed a bankruptcy petition on his own, and the Chapter 7 trustee was about to take his house.

The client had used a “bankruptcy paralegal” to prepare his bankruptcy petition after seeing an ad in a local PennySaver. The paralegal incorrectly advised the debtor about New York bankruptcy law, and as a result, the debtor did not realize that his home was not totally protected by the New York homestead exemption.

As a result of that situation, I brought a class action proceeding against this paralegal who had prepared several hundred bankruptcy petitions on Long Island. When I filed the class action suit in bankruptcy court, the clerk’s office at first did not know what to do with it as they had never encountered a class action suit in bankruptcy court before.

As a result of that litigation, the paralegal was assessed fines exceeding $100,000 and was permanently enjoined from ever preparing petitions again.

Web-based Bankruptcy Petition Preparer Punished

St. John’s law student Thomas Szaniawski, in an American Bankruptcy Institute Case Blog article that was just published last week, discussed a case of first impression that addressed the intersection of cyberspace and bankruptcy.

The United States Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit, in Reynoso v. United (Frankfort Digital Services v. Kistler) held that a provider of web-based bankruptcy software was a BPP under the Bankruptcy Code and that, under state law, the features of the petition preparation software constituted the unauthorized practice of law.

The defendant had a website that offered to prepare bankruptcy petitions for consumers. A consumer could use the browser-based software to prepare a bankruptcy petition based on information the consumer provided. The product’s website explained that the software would choose which bankruptcy exemptions to apply for and remove any need for the petitioner to individually select which schedule to use for the various pieces of information involved.

The court reasoned that providing personalized guidance in selecting specific exemptions or schedules constituted the unauthorized practice of law. Thus, the owner of the website, by providing software that held itself out as offering legal advice, projected an aura of expertise, and provided specific advice tailored to each customer’s situation. This led the court to conclude that the defendant had, in fact, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

This case is significant because it established that the mere act of providing software may qualify an individual as a BPP. This means that such software providers are subject to the strictures of the Bankruptcy Code and must obey the strict limitations on permissible BPP conduct. Thus, any conduct beyond mere typesetting can result in liability for the unauthorized practice of law. The fact that such conduct occurs by way of a software application, instead of traditional interpersonal interaction, is not a defense.

One jurisdiction is warning the public about BPP’s

 The problem with bankruptcy paralegals rendering bad and incompetent legal advice became especially acute in the Southern District of California, one of the busiest in the nation. There, the U.S. Trustee, who has since become a judge, took the extraordinary step of warning consumers about the perils of discount advice by issuing a report about the dangers of using bankruptcy petition preparers.

Bankruptcy practice is involved and should not be done by non-attorneys

Although courts have expressed sympathy with indigent debtors who may have difficulty paying legal fees, numerous judicial opinions clearly state that this is no justification to turn a blind eye to the unauthorized practice of law by bankruptcy petition preparers, especially as they often tend to cause far more harm than good.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney has years of legal training; is bound by professional ethics requirements; is licensed by the state; and is familiar with local rules and procedure. That is no comparison to a street-corner paralegal who thinks that whatever a lawyer can do, he can do. When that happens, there will ultimately be unfortunate consequences and their clients will pay the price.

About the Author.  Long Island Bankruptcy Attorney Craig D. Robins, Esq., is a regular columnist for the Suffolk Lawyer, the official publication of the Suffolk County Bar Association in New York. This article appeared in the March 2009 issue of the Suffolk Lawyer. Mr. Robins is a bankruptcy lawyer who has represented thousands of consumer and business clients during the past twenty years. He has offices in Medford, Commack, Woodbury and Valley Stream. (516) 496-0800. For information about filing bankruptcy on Long Island, please visit his Bankruptcy web site: http://www.BankruptcyCanHelp.com.

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Are You Considering Bankruptcy?

Posted on Thursday (March 12, 2009) at 12:00 pm to Bankruptcy Tips Consumers Should Know
Benefits of Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy enables Long Island consumers to get a fresh new financial start.

A Little Advice for Long Island Consumers Thinking of Wiping Out Debts with Bankruptcy

 

Written by Craig D. Robins, store Esq.

 Many Long Island consumers are able to eliminate debts and get a fresh new financial start with bankruptcy. If you are thinking about filing, sildenafil here are some important points.

 

 Do not wait too long

The purpose of bankruptcy is to help individuals and families protect their remaining assets in the face of overwhelming financial problems. If you think you may need bankruptcy protection, try to do so before you lose those precious assets.

 For example, I see too many consumers invade their pensions and individual retirement accounts before filing. However, if they sought our bankruptcy advice before doing so, they would have learned that these types of assets are totally protected in a New York bankruptcy proceeding.

Also, the sooner you file, the sooner you get debt relief. Once a bankruptcy petition is filed, it becomes against federal law for creditors to harass you any further.

Save a little money to file bankruptcy

Unfortunately for consumers, the 2005 Bankruptcy Amendment Act made the bankruptcy process much more complicated and consequently more expensive. In addition to the attorney’s fee, there is a court filing fee of $299, and costs for mandatory credit counseling of about $50 before filing.

Then, once your bankruptcy case is filed, you will no longer be responsible to your creditors and you will be in a position to start saving again.

Do not try to go it alone

The new bankruptcy laws are extremely complex and complicated. The prudent choice for the consumer is to retain an experienced Long Island bankruptcy lawyer. At my bankruptcy law firm, we provide a free, confidential bankruptcy consultation and explain how bankruptcy works.

Many consumers who try to file bankruptcy without an attorney are unsuccessful, and their cases get dismissed without a discharge. At every Chapter 13 Meeting of Creditors at the Central Islip Bankruptcy Court, I hear my colleague, Long Island Chapter 13 trustee Michael Macco, make an announcement that in his 26 years as a trustee, he has never seen a Chapter 13 debtor successfully get a case confirmed by the bankruptcy court.

Know your options about handling debt

If you are overwhelmed by debt, or think that you may be in the future, learn what your rights and options are now. In addition to three different chapters of bankruptcy, there is also debt negotiation, debt consolidation, credit counseling, and foreclosure defense.

An knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney can guide you towards the best choice. Many of these options are discussed on my website, www.BankruptcyCanHelp.com

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Bankruptcy on Long Island in 2009

Posted on Tuesday (March 10, 2009) at 10:00 pm to Issues Involving New Bankruptcy Laws
Long Island Economy

money-financial-freedom

Bankruptcy Revisited — Three Years After the Laws Changed
 
Written by Craig D. Robins, Esq.
 
It was just over three years ago when Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, also known as the 2005 Bankruptcy Amendment Act.
 
Bankruptcy filings surged in September and October 2005 as struggling consumers rushed to beat the law’s implementation. Filings then fell for the next two years.
 
Filings decreased so much in 2006 that some bankruptcy courts across the country had to lay off staff.  My colleague, Chapter 7 trustee Andrew Thaler, commented at that time that the Central Islip Bankruptcy Court was like a morgue because there was so little activity.
 
However, that is certainly not the case today.  As I reported last week, filings have again soared, with more than 1 million consumers seeking debt relief through bankruptcy across the country in our struggling economy.  The calendars for hearings held in the Long Island bankruptcy court have very busy so far this year.
 
With the recession impacting Long Island, continued economic pain will drive consumers from Nassau County and Suffolk County to the Central Islip Bankruptcy Court in large numbers.  Fortunately, my four Long Island bankruptcy law offices are ready to handle them.
 
Despite the passing of tougher laws in 2005, most individuals still qualify for Chapter 7 relief.  Chapter 7 is the most common type of bankruptcy and it is typically used to wipe out credit card debt.  Those consumers filing Chapter 7 on Long Island make up the largest number of cases filed in the court.
 
There are also a great number of Chapter 13 cases in the Central Islip bankruptcy court filed by Long Island homeowners seeking to stop foreclosure.
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About Us

Craig D. Robins, Esq. is a Long Island bankruptcy lawyer, who is focused primarily on helping individuals and families, find solutions to their debt problems. Read more »

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Craig D. Robins, Esq.
35 Pinelawn Road, Suite 218E, Melville, NY 11747.

Tel : 516 - 496 - 0800

CraigR@Craigrobinslaw.com