A former Bridgeport-based attorney has been sentenced in U.S. District Court to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his part in a long-running fraud scheme that targeted distressed homeowners throughout Connecticut.
Bradford Barneys, a 51-year-old Maryland resident who was placed on interim suspension in Connecticut in April, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud related to the fraud scheme.
Federal investigators said Barneys, who operated Barneys Law Group, conspired with Easton resident Timothy W. Burke to defraud individuals, mortgage lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Burke, who had at least 13 different aliases and spent time in prison previously for similar offenses, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion related to the case with Barneys. Burke was sentenced to 108 months in prison in late April.
According to a 19-page March 2016 indictment in the case, Burke, the alleged ringleader of the scam, falsely represented to homeowners who were in, or facing, foreclosure on their homes that he would purchase their homes and pay off their mortgages. With that understanding, the homeowners, the government maintains, agreed to sign documents presented by Burke saying they would be able to walk away from their homes without paying off mortgages or other costs associated with home ownership. Burke, prosecutors said, also told those homeowners the process of negotiating with lenders could take time and to ignore notices regarding foreclosures. Court papers state Burke mailed hundreds of letters to owners of properties in foreclosure stating he was an investor and interested in the purchase of their homes.
Burke, prosecutors said, would then look for tenants for those apartments online. “He would advertise and rent out the properties that he fraudulently obtained to make rental income, but not pay the homeowners victims’ mortgage and interest payments and taxes as he had promised to the homeowners victims,” according to the indictment. While it is not clear exactly how much money Burke collected from the scheme, prosecutors said it could be in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Barneys’ role, the government said, was as Burke’s attorney. Barneys is said to have participated in “dozens” of meetings with Burke and the duped homeowners in his law offices. The government says “at some point” after Barneys began representing Burke, the attorney knew Burke had no intention of buying the properties and paying the outstanding mortgages on the properties. At those meetings, the government noted, Burke told victims he’d purchase their properties and presented them with quitclaim deeds, management agreements, indemnification agreements and third-party authorizations.
Barneys, it’s charged, also represented Burke and his various companies in eviction proceedings against tenants and mailed copies of documents to homeowners on Burke’s behalf. A practicing Connecticut attorney since 1991, Barneys, the government says, allegedly netted about $73,000 for his part in the elaborate scheme.
Barneys, one of his attorneys said Friday, expressed remorse for what he had done.
“Mr. Barneys showed a lot of contrition for his behavior and apologized to his victims,” Sefton Brown told the Connecticut Law Tribune Friday. Barneys was represented by Brown of the Law Office of Sefton N. Brown in Bridgeport and Francis O’Reilly of O’Reilly & Shaw in Southport. O’Reilly was not available for comment.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David T. Huang and Sarah P. Karwan.
Tom Carson, public information officer for the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, could not be reached for comment. All comments from the office must go through Carson.
Barneys was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in Hartford.