The United States Law Week

Attorney’s Vulnerable Victim Sentence Enhancement Proper

Feb. 25, 2019, 7:13 PM

A Connecticut attorney who was convicted of conspiring to defraud homeowners facing foreclosure lost his bid to get his 30-month sentence reduced.

The “vulnerable victim” sentence enhancement was properly applied, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said in an unpublished opinion.

Timothy Burke falsely told homeowners he would purchase their properties and assume their mortgages, the court said. Instead, he took possession of the properties, didn’t pay the mortgages, and rented them to tenants until the mortgages were foreclosed, it said.

Bradford Barneys allowed Burke to use his law office to promote the scheme and sat in on the meetings when the transactions occurred, according to the court.

Barneys was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. He argued that his sentence should have been 18 to 24 months, but the court sentenced him to 30 months by applying the vulnerable victim enhancement.

Using the enhancement was proper because the victim was in financial desperation, the appeals court said. Burke chose the victim because his condominium was in foreclosure, his mortgage was underwater, and he couldn’t arrange a short sale, it said.

The victim’s financial desperation made it substantially difficult for him to avoid Burke’s “carefully crafted promises,” the court said. Barneys knew this but didn’t stop the crime, it said.

Judges Amalya L. Kearse, Dennis Jacobs, and Peter W. Hall were on the panel.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office represented the government. Jeremiah Donovan of Old Saybrook, Conn., represented Barneys.

The case is United States v. Burke, 2019 BL 60762, 2d Cir., No. 17-2339, unpublished 2/25/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; C. Reilly Larson at rlarson@bloomberglaw.com

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