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A Fresh Start

Fifteen years later, a childhood blunder is absolved -- in bankruptcy court.

Sweeney now works as an English-Spanish interpreter and plays bass in a local band called the Visitors. He expects to pay a small percentage of his restitution over the next five years as part of his Chapter 13 plan and then be done with it for good. He knows some people won't agree with that, but he's looking forward to having a second chance at financial independence.

"I don't want to shirk responsibility," he says. "At the same time, this kind of debt is dischargeable. I did my community service and completed my probation. I paid what I could. I just got to a point in my life where I was so far in the red, I needed some help."

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