Man of many aliases pleads guilty to bilking distressed homeowners

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Timothy W. Burke, who did business throughout Connecticut using more than a dozen aliases, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford in connection with a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners.

Burke, who has been incarcerated since his arrest in November 2015, faces up to 25 years in prison for mail fraud and tax evasion when U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea sentences him April 18.

The 65-year-old former resident of Easton, and his attorney, Bradford Barneys, were the subject of a series of stories published by The Day in November 2014. The scheme involved homeowners in Bridgeport, New London, Griswold, Ledyard, Waterbury, Plymouth, Portland, Andover, New Haven and West Haven. Barneys was indicted in April 2016 on charges of conspiracy and mail fraud. His case is pending.

The Day's investigation found more than a half-dozen 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.

According to the office of U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly, the government investigation found that between 2010 and November 2015, Burke engaged in a scheme 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 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. 

The government found that Burke 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 he owned the properties.

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

According to the government, Burke went to great lengths to disguise his true identity, and hide his criminal past, from his victims through the use of more than a dozen aliases, including Pat Riley, Jim Caldwell, Jim Saunders and M. Soler, to conceal the sources of and expenditures from his criminal proceedings.

He has been associated with multiple business entities, including Birmingham Investments LLC; Saunders Associates; New Haven Investments; Realty Partners Group; Preston Associates II; Turnkey Construction Services LLC; The Complete Handyman LLC; and Woodbridge Associates.

Burke evaded paying approximately $403,726 in federal taxes between 1994 and 2012, according to the government.

In 2002, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in New Jersey on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and equity skimming. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He was released from federal custody in 2007 and began his federal supervised release. One of the special conditions of his release was that he refrain from employment in the real estate business or mortgage industry. The New Jersey federal court terminated his supervised release in 2009.

The case is being investigated by Internal Revenue Service — Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — Office of Inspector General, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 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.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan are prosecuting.

Day Staff Writer Izaskun Larrañeta contributed to this report.

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