Burke's attorney indicted for conspiring to dupe distressed homeowners

Bridgeport attorney Bradford Barneys has been indicted in U.S. District Court on charges he conspired with accused con man Timothy W. Burke to operate a long-running mortgage fraud scheme that targeted homeowners throughout the state who were on the verge of losing their homes.

Barneys, 50, who resides in Odenton, Md., appeared Tuesday before Judge Donna F. Martinez in Bridgeport.

He  pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. He was released on a $50,000 bond.

Burke, 64, of Easton, has been incarcerated since November 2015, when he was arrested on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering and identity theft.

In a superseding indictment unsealed Tuesday, he was charged with additional counts of mail fraud and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty.

The superseding indictment also alleges that Burke evaded paying more than $1 million in federal taxes.

Burke, who has several aliases, and Barneys were the subject of a series of stories published by The Day in November 2014.

The Day's investigation found more than a half dozens cases in which Burke and his associates sent out mass mailings to people whose homes were in foreclosure, then allegedly bilked them out of thousands of dollars after promising to purchase their homes and free them of their mortgages. 

The scheme involved homeowners in Bridgeport, New London, Griswold, Ledyard, Waterbury, Plymouth, Portland, Andover, New Haven and West Haven.

At the time, Barneys had a law office above a day care center on Boston Avenue in Bridgeport.

His Connecticut law license remains active, according to public records, though it had been temporarily suspended four times since 2001.

He was disbarred from practicing law in Maryland in 2002 and in the District of Columbia in 2004.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that from April 2011 to September 2014, Burke and Barneys conspired to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development 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.

According to the government, the distressed homeowners agreed to sign various documents, including quitclaim deeds, indemnification agreements, management agreements and third-party authorization letters, which Burke and Barneys 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.

Barneys met or spoke with homeowners to reassure them about their sale to Burke, according to the indictment.

Burke told homeowners that the process of negotiating with the lenders could take time and that, in the meantime, they should ignore any notices regarding foreclosure, according to the indictment.

After he gained control of the houses, Burke advertised them for rent, sometimes on Craigslist.com, and falsely represented to tenants that he owned them, according to the government.

The indictment further alleges that Burke or one of his agents collected rent from tenants, in person, and Burke used the funds for his own benefit.

When tenants failed to pay rent, Barneys would evict them so that Burke could rent the property to other tenants.

Burke failed to negotiate with the mortgage holders of the distressed properties or make mortgage, tax and other payments on the homes and failed to pay any rental income he was collecting to the homeowners, according to the government. 

Many of the properties were ultimately foreclosed upon by the mortgage lender.

The government alleges that Burke, who had been indicted in 2002 by a federal jury in New Jersey for a similar scheme, undertook extensive efforts to disguise his true identity through the use of multiple aliases and business entities.

According to the government, Burke is associated with multiple entities, including Quality Asset Management Services LLC; Birmingham Investments LLC; the Birmingham Group of Companies; Saunders Associates; New Haven Investments; Realty Partners Group; Preston Associates II; Landlord Maintenance Services LLC; Turnkey Construction Services LLC, The Complete Handyman LLC and Woodbridge Associates.

He also is alleged to have used the name of another individual in connection with his fraud without that person's knowledge or consent.

In the New Jersey case, Burke pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit equity skimming and mail fraud and was sentenced to 60 months in prison. 

He was released from federal custody in August 2007. One of the special conditions of his supervised release was that he refrain from employment in the real estate business or mortgage industry.

If convicted, he faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering; a maximum term of imprisonment of five years for tax evasion, and a mandatory, consecutive two-year term of imprisonment for aggravated identity theft.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford.

This matter is being investigated by Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with the assistance of the Middletown, Plainville, Easton and Coventry police departments, the state police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David T. Huang.

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 (860) 240-9735.

k.florin@theday.com

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