- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A former Idaho prosecutor hid his then-wife’s Rolex watch when the couple filed for bankruptcy in late 2010, prosecutors said in opening statements of a federal bankruptcy fraud trial.

But John Bujak, representing himself, in his opening statement on Tuesday said his former wife told him that she’d given the watch to her mother years earlier, and that’s why he didn’t include it when filing bankruptcy papers.

The former Canyon County prosecutor is charged with bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets, making a false statement under oath, money laundering and obstruction of justice. The charges against Bujak carry penalties of five to 10 years each.

The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1lYfkbO) that the trial is expected to last about a week at the federal courthouse in Boise.

“In my opinion, the evidence will show this case is not about an abuse of the bankruptcy process, but rather it’s a bleed-over of an ugly divorce that happened in Canyon County,” Bujak told jurors. “This case is about a jilted ex-wife who wants to see me burn.”

Bujak, who is running for governor as an independent, said he bought the watch for his then-wife, Pepper, in 2006 for about $50,000. He said it wasn’t among the couple’s possessions when they prepared bankruptcy documents, so he asked Pepper about it. He said that she told him that “years ago” she’d given the watch to her mother.

Bujak said his former wife wanted to sell the watch to pay for dental veneers and help with other debts. He said the watch came back into his possession after completing bankruptcy filings, meaning he didn’t have to disclose the sale to the bankruptcy court.

He said he cashed the check at Money Tree not because he was trying to hide money from the bankruptcy trustee, but because of another investigation concerning his resignation as Canyon County prosecutor and allegations he owed about $300,000.

Prosecutors said in opening statements that the watch remained the couple’s property during the bankruptcy and was held by Bukak’s in-laws for safekeeping.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Hurwit said that Bujak paid a hefty check-cashing charge rather than use his bank so he could keep the sale secret.

Jeremy Gugino, the trustee for Bujak’s bankruptcy case, was the only person to testify Tuesday. Responding to questions from prosecutors, he said Bujak agreed to waive protection from his creditors and also pay the trustee the $11,000 left over from the sale of the watch.

Gugino testified that he believes Bujak made those decisions because he had been caught “red-handed” in fraud.

Gugino was scheduled to be cross-examined by Bujak on Wednesday.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com