Attorney Involved in Scheme that Targeted Distressed Homeowners Sentenced to 30 Months in Federal Prison

WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that BRADFORD BARNEYS, 51, of Odenton, Maryland, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to 30 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervise release, for conspiring with Timothy W. Burke in a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut. BARNEYS was an attorney licensed to practice in Connecticut and has an office in Bridgeport.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between approximately 2010 and November 2015, Timothy W. Burke, formerly of Easton, engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by falsely representing to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. The distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents that Burke presented to them on the understanding that, by signing the documents, they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgage or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke also told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders can take time and that, in the meantime, to ignore any notices regarding foreclosure. After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants by advertising the properties on craigslist.com and other means and falsely representing to tenants that Burke owned the property.

Burke or one of his agents then collected rent from tenants, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit. He also failed to negotiate with the homeowners’ mortgage lender or pay expenses associated with the home, including the homeowner’s mortgages and property taxes, and he failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners. Many of the properties Burke purportedly purchased were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

Burke undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of multiple aliases and business entities, and to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceeds.

Between approximately 2011 to at least 2014, BARNEYS participated in dozens of meetings with Burke and with homeowners at BARNEYS’ law offices in Bridgeport. At the meetings, Burke represented to homeowners that he would purchase their properties and presented to the homeowners quitclaim deeds, management agreements, indemnification agreements, and third party authorizations.

BARNEYS was paid more than $72,000 in fees and other monies for his participation in the fraud.

At some point after BARNEYS began representing Burke in these meetings with homeowners, BARNEYS knew that Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages on the properties. Nevertheless, BARNEYS continued to participate in these meetings and represented that these transactions were legitimate. When questioned by homeowners about the status of their sales, BARNEYS would assure them that their sales to Burke or one of his companies were progressing as Burke promised. BARNEYS also knew that, once Burke obtained the properties from the homeowners, he would rent them out to tenants.

BARNEYS also represented Burke and his companies in eviction proceedings against tenants.

The investigation further revealed that BARNEYS engaged in separate fraud scheme similar to the scheme that Burke engineered. BARNEYS assisted two Maryland residents in purchasing a commercial property located on Boston Avenue in Bridgeport. BARNEYS then acted as a purported landlord for the property, executed long-term lease agreements with at least two tenants, and collected tens of thousands of dollars of rent without the actual owners’ knowledge or authorization and kept the funds for his own use.

On February 21, 2017, BARNEYS pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire a fraud.

BARNEYS’ law license was temporarily suspended by state authorities after he pleaded guilty, with additional proceedings scheduled to determine whether further discipline is warranted. Judge Shea ordered BARNEYS not to apply for reinstatement of his law license, and not to engage in any business related to real estate, while he is on supervised release.

On January 24, 2017, Burke pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. On April 28, 2017, he was sentenced to 108 months of imprisonment.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, the Connecticut State Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.

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