Housing Scam Leads to Life in Prison

Housing scams are sadly nothing new. Without them, this website wouldn’t have an endless stream of rotten real estate deals to write about. But it is unusual when real estate crime leads to more than a few years of jail time, let alone life in prison.

Timothy Barnett saw an opportunity when real estate prices skyrocketed in the most recent bubble, and used soaring equity as a lever to steal the value right out from under a handful of South Los Angeles homeowners.

Barnett fraudulently convinced people to leverage the equity in their homes for an investment, which of course was not real. The money was lost and five elderly families were left homeless.

California has a three strikes law, which it applies to violent offenders to keep them off the streets for good. In this case, while Barnett was not violent, he put vulnerable people on the street, and a California judge decided these three strikes were bad enough to land Barnett 25 years to life in prison.

Barnett showed up at people’s homes who were already facing financial hardship, gained their trust, prayed with them, and offered a solution to get them out of debt by refinancing and handing him the payout check. In all, he stole a combined value of $900,000.

Barnett had been in prison for the same crime in the past, and when his recent victims outed his bad deed, he fell on the far side of a strict law. His real estate fraud days may be over for good.

Read the entire story at the LA Times.