Timothy Barnett used the recent housing crisis to steal the retirement savings of elderly people in California and now he has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under the states three-strikes law.
The case appears to be the first time that a white-collar offender has received such a lengthy sentence under a statue that is typically used to put the most hardened criminals behind bars for the remainder of their lives.
This particular case is rare because Barnett’s entire history involves fraud. In March Barnett was sentenced to 17 felony counts for tricking five people into granting him title to their homes, the same charge he received back in the 1990s.
In berating Mr. Barnett Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus said on Friday:
“The worst thing you can do is take somebody’s home. Instead of helping people, he stripped the equity from their homes and left five people homeless. Even Bernie Madoff didn’t take people’s homes from them.”
Defense attorney Amy Konstantelos was angry that the three-strikes rule was used in a “non-violent” case and she plans to file an appeal.
During his last scam in poor areas of Los Angeles from 2005 through 2007 Barnett managed to strip homeowners of nearly $900,000 in equity and then he moved to seize their property.
As part of the sentencing all of Barnett’s assets are to be seized to pay back victims of his crime, although prosecutors admit that he likely doesn’t have the means to make good on his stolen payments.
While the defense argues that his crimes did not violently hurt anyone, among his victims was widow Dorthy King, an 85-year-old blind widow who was kicked out of her home after being scammed by Timothy Barnett. Perhaps kicking an 85-year-old blind woman out of her home should be considered a violent crime when fraud is involved.