BRIDGEPORT, Conn.-- An attorney who practices in Bridgeport pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring with a business associate in a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut.
Bradford Barneys, 51, of Odenton, Md., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford to conspiring with Timothy W. Burke , formerly of Easton, in the scheme. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from 2010 to 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.
The distressed homeowners agreed to sign documents from Burke 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 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 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 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 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.
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 the 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.
Barneys pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire a fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison. Shea scheduled sentencing for June 13.
On Jan. 24, Burke pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. He also awaits sentencing.