Connecticut man faces federal charges for alleged housing scams

Start of The Day's series on area foreclosures is shown in this photo of the Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 front page.
Start of The Day's series on area foreclosures is shown in this photo of the Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 front page.

New Haven — An Easton man was charged Thursday in federal court with operating a mortgage-fraud scheme that targeted homeowners who were on the verge of losing their homes.

Timothy Burke, 64, was charged with mail fraud, an offense that carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

An investigation by The Day in 2014 found more than a half-dozen instances across the state — in Bridgeport, New London, Griswold, Waterbury, Plymouth, Portland, Andover, New Haven and West Haven — in which property owners facing foreclosure believe they were misled and taken advantage of by Burke.

Law enforcement officers believe that Burke and his associates sent out mass mailings to people whose homes were in foreclosure — information that is available to the public on the state Judicial Branch website.

The affidavit in the case also said that Burke subscribed to the online database the Warren Group, which provides a listing of properties in foreclosure.

Former employees interviewed by federal authorities said they mailed 800 to 1,000 letters a week to homeowners in foreclosure.

The government alleges that he made hundreds of thousands of dollars to which he was not entitled.

According to the affidavit, from 2008 to November 2014 Burke or his associates used the check banking services X-Bankers in Bridgeport and had cashed checks or money orders totaling $5 million.

Burke, who went by Bill and Jimmy, told the property owners that he would buy their homes from them, enabling them to walk away from their debts and other financial obligations.

Instead, the homeowners said he paid them a small amount of cash and then rented out the property, keeping the rent monies instead of applying them to the mortgages, taxes and other property-related expenses.

The affidavit said Burke also used the aliases Kerry Saunders, Pat Riley, Jim Caldwell, Jim Saunders, Tom Morrisey, Phil Burke and Burt.

Burke was sentenced in 2003 in U.S. District Court in New Jersey to 60 months in prison for participating in an "equity skimming" scheme similar to what Connecticut homeowners described to The Day.

But according to the federal complaint, Burke started to run his scheme in Connecticut in May 2008 while he was still under federal supervision.

Homeowners and tenants interviewed by The Day said Burke represented himself as associated with three companies: Realty Partners Group, New Haven Investments and Saunders Associates.

Burke is listed as the agent or managing member of five companies: Turnkey Construction Associates LLC; Birmingham Investments; The Complete Handyman LLC; Landlord Maintenance Services LLC; and Quality Asset Management Services LLC — all of which share the same Milford address.

The companies are registered with the secretary of the state but have not kept their business filings up to date.

The affidavit alleges that Burke used these companies to conceal his identity and activities.

Federal authorities raided Burke’s Easton office on Nov. 3, 2014, and discovered 60 to 70 booklets of carbon copy rental receipts. Each booklet had 50 pages. The timeframe for the receipts was from 2009 to 2013, the affidavit said.

On Dec. 5, 2014, Burke’s attorneys met with investigators and said he would open a bank account and deposit collected rent as a sign of “good faith” and not an admission of guilt.

The following month Burke opened a bank account at TD Bank with a $50 deposit. He closed the account in February 2015 with a balance of $25.67.

Investigators discovered that Burke instead opened an account at People’s Bank in February 2015 in the name of Quality Asset Management Services, one of his many businesses. From February to August 2015, he made a series of deposits totaling $3 million, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said once he became he aware that he was under investigation in November 2014, he stopped cashing checks at X-Bankers and went to a new cashing place in Bridgeport named Daysie LLC in December.

The affidavit said in the month of August 2015 alone, he cashed $500,000 in checks.

The homeowners who spoke to The Day have lost their homes to foreclosure or are in the process of losing them.

The tenants, who found the rental listings on Craigslist, didn't know they were living in houses under foreclosure.

Eugene McGuire is still reeling from the consequences of dealing with Burke. He currently lives in Plaquemine, La.

In 2013, McGuire’s two Jewett City rental properties were in foreclosure and his wife had recently lost her job.

In May of that year, he got a letter from Saunders Associates, a private investment company with a Fairfield address.

A man who identified himself as Bill Burke came to Jewett City and said he was interested in buying the properties at 115-117 N. Main St. and 39 Talcott Ave.

McGuire went to Bridgeport and met with Burke’s attorney Bradford Barneys and signed several documents, including two quitclaim deeds transferring ownership of the properties to Saunders Associates.

Saunders Associates didn't buy the properties but instead rented out the North Main Street property.

Neither the McGuires nor the bank ever received any of the rental income.

The Talcott Avenue property was taken over by the bank, and the North Main Street property remains vacant and is still in McGuire’s name.

He said Thursday he still owes around $3,000 in town and utility bills.

“I’m glad he’s arrested,” said McGuire. “We learned our lesson, but it’s too late. He portrayed himself as someone who was going to lift that (financial) burden and he never did.”

Last December, Barneys said he terminated his relationship with Burke. On Thursday, he said he had no comment on Burke’s arrest.

Donald Pardy met with a man named Bill Burke of Realty Partners Group in July 2014 at a Dunkin Donuts in Southbury.

Burke told him he was interested in buying his house at 109 Glenwood Ave. in New London and would maintain the property while he negotiated a sale with the bank.

But Burke never did and instead listed the home for rent on Craigslist. A person attempted to rent the home but got suspicious when she saw a for sale sign outside the house.

When the potential renter contacted the real estate agent, she was informed the house was not for rent.

Pardy lost the New London home to foreclosure and said Thursday he has moved on. He wondered why it took so long for Burke to be charged with a crime.

“I’m pleased that the general population will be protected from him and his scam,” said Pardy. “It’s good to know that this crime wasn’t being ignored.”

Ashley Baron said in March 2014 she responded a Craigslist ad, which offered a home for rent in Waterbury.

She did not know the home was in foreclosure, and “Jimmy,” the person who rented the home to her, never said anything.

Baron, her boyfriend and her three sons were forced by the bank to leave their home in December 2014.

She relocated to another home in Waterbury but said the move was upsetting to her family.

She said her older son was forced to go into a new school, which was a “big adjustment for him.”

“He has done this before and it didn’t seem to make a difference,” said Baron. “I would like to see the charges stick this time.”

Burke is scheduled to appear in court Monday, where the court will decide whether he will be released on bond.

Individuals who believe they have been victimized by this alleged scheme and citizens with information that will be helpful to this ongoing investigation are asked to call federal authorities at (860) 240-9735.

This investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the critical assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry Police Departments, and the Connecticut State Police. This case is being prosecuted by Senior Litigation Counsel Richard J. Schechter and Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang.

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter:@larraneta

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