He pleaded guilty to killing 3 people in a DUI-related crash. Then, he sued the families of the victims. Now, the I-Team is looking into a new accusation against David Belniak- that he is hiding his assets so the victims’ families don’t get a dime from him.
David Belniak was under the influence of alcohol and Xanax on Christmas Day in 2007, according to toxicology reports. An FHP investigation found he was driving at least 70 mph when he hit an SUV that had stopped at a red light.
Georgette DeFranco spoke to the I-Team about the moment she got the phone call.
“They said, “We have your dad in the emergency room.” There had been an accident. I asked where everybody else was, and they said they had my mom, and they had my sister,” DeFranco said.
Georgette lost her mother, Linda McWilliams, her sister, Denise Bassi, and her brother-in-law, Gerard Bassi. She claims her stepfather, Ray McWilliams, who died in 2011, never fully recovered from his injuries.
Belniak pleaded guilty to 3 counts of DUI manslaughter and got 12 years behind bars. Georgette and her family wished it ended there.
“When is it going to stop? Every time we think it’s done, it’s not. They just keep coming after us.” DeFranco said.
Just months after going to prison, Belniak sued the victims’ family for medical bills and mental anguish, claiming he didn’t cause the crash. They asserted that the SUV pulled in front of Belniak’s truck, causing the crash. A jury disagreed, and found in favor of the victims’ families.
But when the victims’ families successfully sued Belniak for their medical bills and mental anguish, they found Belniak had sold his assets to his parents just weeks after the crash. The families have yet to receive any of the $15 million dollars awarded by the jury.
The Belniak family claims, in court documents, that David Belniak sold his properties to raise legal fees, not to avoid paying the families.
“They’re obviously hiding his money,” DeFranco said.
The I-Team obtained video of a deposition of David Belniak’s mother, Marlene. The victims’ families are in the process of suing the Belniaks for fraudulent transfer of funds.
In the deposition, Marlene Belniak gave few answers when pressed about her son’s finances and the finances of the family construction business she worked at.
She claimed she didn’t know whether Hammerhead Construction had other employees, attorneys, or accountants. She also claimed she didn’t know whether the business filed tax returns. When asked if she had a checking account, she answered, under oath, “I might,” but said she didn’t know if she had more than one.
Asset protection attorney Brian Sparks, who is not connected to the Belniak case, says it’s illegal under Florida law to sell or hide your assets to avoid paying debts. But, it has to be proven in court that the intent of the transfer was to hide money from creditors.
“If a person has a lot of assets on day one, and three days later, they don’t have those assets, there’s got to be a pretty good explanation for where they went,” Sparks said.
But it’s also a crime that carries few penalties. If the Belniak family loses, they will simply have to pay the money they owe. DeFranco believes they should face penalties or be liable for punitive damages for making her family’s suffering drag on through 5 years of legal battles.
“I understand that they’re trying to protect their son. But there’s a time to come forward and say, I’m sorry, this was an accident,” DeFranco said.
DeFranco told I-Team Investigator Michael George things have never been the same for her family since the accident. George asked her what she would like to hear from the Belniak family.
“Maybe that they’re sorry? Maybe that they have a little bit of compassion for what they’ve done?” she said.
Belniak is also currently suing the Florida Highway Patrol, claiming they were negligent in their investigation. The I-Team reached out to the Belniak family’s attorneys several times for comment, but they declined.
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