Owner of Valued Homes Used Customers’ Money for Personal Expenses
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James and State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett today announced that Sherrie A. Burton, of South Glen Falls, NY, was sentenced to three to nine years in prison, in connection with her scheme to defraud over 40 homebuyers out of over $1 million through her companies Valued Homes and Valued Manufactured Housing, Inc.
“Today’s sentencing should send a message to anyone seeking to defraud New Yorkers: my office will find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” said Attorney General James. “Sherrie Burton cheated innocent New York homebuyers out of their hard-earned money, stealing more than $1 million for shopping sprees, vacations, and gambling. No one is above the law, and today’s sentencing proves just that.”
Superintendent Corlett added, “This individual stole money intended as a down payment from multiple victims, spending the cash on her own expenses and leaving many victims unable to buy new homes. We will not tolerate those who swindle New Yorkers out of their hard-earned money, and we will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to ensure that anyone who attempts to conduct this type of criminal activity is brought to justice.”
This afternoon, Burton was sentenced to three to nine years in prison upon her guilty pleas to the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony. Numerous victims spoke at Burton’s sentencing and provided written victim impact statements to the Honorable James A. Murphy III, Saratoga County Court Judge, prior to his pronouncement of sentence, which included confessions of judgment totaling over $700,000 on behalf of the victims.
In February 2019, Burton was charged in a nine-count felony complaint after a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the New York State Police revealed that Burton utilized her two companies to obtain deposits, down payments, and even full cash payments from unsuspecting customers of modular and manufactured homes, and then used the money to continue her ongoing scheme and for her own personal use.
Between at least March 2015 and July 2018, Burton operated Valued Homes and Valued Manufactured Housing in South Glens Falls, Saratoga County, selling homebuyers newly built manufactured and modular homes. Manufactured homes are factory-built houses, engineered and constructed to the specifications of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s federal building code; while modular homes are factory-built homes that are built to state building standards. Both manufactured and modular homes are transported on a carrier and permanently set on a foundation. Burton told customers that they needed to put down a substantial deposit in order for the manufacturer to begin construction of their new home, while in reality the manufacturers did not require this and never received the money Burton obtained from the victims.
As part of her scheme, Burton obtained financing for floor plan or display models, yet sold them as new models to many customers. She then pocketed the money provided by the homebuyers, instead of using it towards the purchase of the victims’ homes, thus leaving the victims without a legal title to the home, and the lenders believing the homes were still on display at her showroom.
In one instance, a victim received a home from Burton but could not obtain a title allowing her to insure or borrow against the home for over a year. In another instance, a victim provided several thousands of dollars in a deposit to Burton, who never remitted the money to the manufacturer, resulting in the victim having to obtain a mortgage for the full price of the home — essentially paying the deposit twice. In other instances, Burton simply kept the victims’ money and used it to cover other personal and business expenses, such as payments to manufacturers for homes she had previously promised to other customers months ago. While some victims were paid back with money obtained from future victims, most customers who paid Burton never received a home and never got a refund of their money.
The joint investigation uncovered over 40 victims across Upstate New York who Burton defrauded out of over $1 million. The investigation also revealed that Burton utilized some of the stolen money to pay down the financing on the floor plan models in furtherance of her fraudulent scheme. Much of the customer money, however, was used to pay for her own personal expenses, including loan payments, gambling, alcohol, hotels, restaurants, and shopping sprees on the Home Shopping Network.
The criminal investigation commenced after multiple victims filed complaints with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau.
To protect yourself from becoming a victim of a home or property sale scam, the New York State Attorney General’s Office recommends the following:
- Do your homework before contracting for a large purchase, which means:
- Ask for references and call them.
- Research online for complaints.
- Check the Better Business Bureau website and review the basis for their rating, including the complaint summaries, which are usually available online. If you see anything that gives you pause, take your business elsewhere.
- Be wary of providing a large deposit upfront. Remember, if the business fails, you will likely not get your deposit back.
- If you give a deposit that is supposed to be used for a specific purpose, demand proof that it has been applied to that purpose.
- Review any contract carefully before signing it and keep a copy for your records. You will be bound by the contract terms, any oral representations made are unenforceable.
- If you believe you have been scammed as part of a home or property sale, submit a complaint to the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
The Office of the New York State Attorney General wishes to thank the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations and Financial Crimes Unit, as well as the Offices of the Saratoga and Warren County District Attorneys, for their valuable assistance in this investigation.
This criminal case was prosecuted as part of New York Attorney General’s Combatting Upstate Financial Frauds and Schemes (CUFFS) Initiative, led by Director Philip V. Apruzzese. The CUFFS Initiative was implemented by Attorney General James in an effort to assist local law enforcement and District Attorneys in the investigation and prosecution of complex financial crimes and money laundering cases.
Philip V. Apruzzese is also an Assistant Attorney General and prosecuted the case with Special Counsel Benjamin S. Clark, with the assistance of Legal Support Analysts Rebecca Jacobson and Yuriy Kurbatov and Supervising Analyst Paul Strocko — all of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph G. D’Arrigo. The Division of Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Jose Maldonado.
Consumer complaints were handled by Assistant Attorneys General Amy Schallop and Emily Auletta of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine. The Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.
Both the Division of Criminal Justice and the Division of Economic Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
The New York State Attorney General’s investigation was conducted by Investigator Samuel Scotellaro, III, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Mark Spencer and Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam. The Investigations Bureau is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes. Audit work was performed by Auditor Investigator Jason Blair. The Forensic Audit Section is led by Deputy Chief Sandy Bizzarro.