BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — A 51-year-old lawyer who had an office in Bridgeport will spend 30 months behind bars for taking part in a long-running scheme to defraud distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut, prosecutors said.
Bradford Barneys, a Maryland resident who was licensed to practice law in Connecticut, was also sentenced Thursday to three years of supervised release after his prison term, said U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly.
Barneys ran the scam with Timothy W. Burke, formerly of Easton, from 2010 to November 2015.
In the scheme, Burke lied to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes, saying that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages.
The homeowners signed documents from Burke on the understanding that they would be able to walk away from their homes without the burdens of their mortgages.
After he gained control of these houses, Burke rented out the properties to tenants.
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.
For his role in the scheme, Barneys participated in dozens of meetings with Burke and the homeowners at Barneys’ law offices in Bridgeport. That is where the fraudulent documents were presented and signed.
Barneys was paid more than $72,000 for his participation in the fraud.
At some point, Barneys knew that Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages. 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 the sales were progressing as promised. Barneys also knew that, once Burke obtained the properties, he would rent them out.
Barneys also represented Burke and his companies in eviction proceedings against tenants.
The investigation further revealed that Barneys engaged in separate yet similar fraud scheme. He assisted two Maryland residents in purchasing a commercial property in Bridgeport. Barneys then acted as a 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 Feb. 21, Barneys pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
On Jan. 24, Burke pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion. On April 28, he was sentenced to 108 months in prison.
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