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Real Estate Swindler Gets 9 Years in Prison

November 07, 1997|MYRON LEVIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge sentenced real estate swindler Timothy Barnett to a nine-year prison term Thursday, saying the punishment was warranted by the "egregiousness" of his crimes.

Clad in jail coveralls and handcuffed to his brother, Darryl, Barnett sat impassively as his sentence was pronounced by Judge Morris B. Jones. Jones then sentenced Darryl Barnett, 36--described by prosecutors as a bagman for Timothy--to a year in County Jail.

Timothy Barnett, who turns 35 next month, is an avowed Christian, and Jones assailed his habit of praying with victims to win their confidence.

In recent years, the younger Barnett, a self-styled loan broker and foreclosure consultant, had become notorious for preying on inner-city homeowners by promising to help save their homes but instead diverting property or loan proceeds to his own use.

In addition to prison, Timothy Barnett was ordered to pay nearly $350,000 in restitution to his victims.

Among those at the sentencing was Joan Pierre, 54, a South-Central Los Angeles resident who became homeless last week. Pierre--who paid Timothy Barnett more than $16,000 but never got her loan--said his imprisonment "doesn't help my situation" but will stop him from doing "the same thing to someone else."

In July, Barnett pleaded no contest to 14 felony charges--each corresponding to a specific victim defrauded between 1991 and 1995. Prosecutors, who had unsuccessfully fought bail for Timothy Barnett while the case was pending, were vindicated when two new victims came forward after news of his plea.

It turned out that in the months leading up to his no-contest plea, Barnett had defrauded the new victims while he was free on bail.

On Tuesday, the Barnett brothers pleaded no contest to a new set of charges stemming from the recent activities. They are to be sentenced in the new case next week, but their sentences are expected to be concurrent with those handed down Thursday.

Timothy Barnett will get credit for spending 176 days in jail since he was first charged. Prosecutors said he will probably get out of state prison in about 6 1/2 years.

They said Darryl Barnett, who has spent 77 days in custody, will be released from County Jail in a few months.

Along with the jail time, Darryl Barnett was sentenced to five years' probation.

"Really, there is no law that sufficiently punishes Timothy Barnett for what he did," Deputy District Atty. Victor Minjares said.

"He left a lot of people without the one asset that would assure them comfort in their old age: their homes."

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