Darryl Burke didn't just break the law for 25 years, federal authorities say, he defied it — hiding behind aliases while he masterminded millions of dollars worth of fraud, lived it up at his South Florida waterfront "compound" and used his Miami Heat courtside seats to hobnob with celebrities.
Burke, 50, of Delray Beach, started committing mortgage and bank fraud back in 1988, long before those crimes became fashionable and widespread, court records show.
Federal prison sentences briefly halted his offenses, prosecutors said, but did nothing to change his ways.
"Burke got out of prison and went right back to work committing fraud," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerrob Duffy wrote in court records.
Even as the feds were trying to find the chronic fugitive, authorities say he was living under aliases in Broward and Palm Beach counties and ripping off millions of dollars.
Now Burke is scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale on charges that he was the ringleader of a $15 million bank and wire fraud conspiracy.
Prosecutors say the current allegations involve "conduct and deception" that is identical to — but on a much larger scale than — the crime Burke admitted when he pleaded guilty to a prior bank fraud conspiracy with his brother in the 1990s.
Burke, who is accused of using several identities including David Middleton, and his romantic and business partner, Vicki Garland, who is 50 and also known as Felicia Middleton, face 30 years in prison if convicted. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The U.S. Secret Service said the couple defrauded banks and conspired to buy and sell more than 20 properties in South Florida between 2006 and 2013.
Prosecutors said Burke lived an "extravagant lifestyle" with multiple homes — including a two-house "compound" on Lake Ida in Delray Beach. Burke drove a Bentley, a Mercedes and a Range Rover and had "multiple courtside season tickets" for the Miami Heat's basketball games, they said.
Burke's attorney, Humberto Dominguez, said Burke is a legitimate businessman with justifiable sources of income and a record of charitable work.
"He's done nothing wrong. Our position is that the fraud was actually being perpetrated by others," Dominguez told the Sun Sentinel.
Born in Miami, Burke earned his coveted Heat seats because he was a fan from the very beginning, his lawyer said. Burke enjoyed hanging out with players and has donated significant amounts of money to Alonzo Mourning's and Dwyane Wade's charities, Dominguez said.
One thing Burke didn't spend money on was paying off the $334,643 in restitution that he owed in the 1992 case, prosecutors said. Court records show he paid only $3,400 by 2011.
"Aspects of this fraud are simply despicable," prosecutors wrote.
Despite the expensive cars and home, conservatively valued at $1.3 million, agents found food stamp cards for Garland and another family member in Burke's bedroom, with Medicaid cards for other family members.
Burke told authorities he earned $60,000 a year as a Miami construction manager. While prosecutors questioned how he paid for his lifestyle, Burke's lawyer told U.S. District Judge James Cohn that Burke's legitimate income included about $400,000 from a personal injury settlement in 2000.
Dominguez said Burke's Next Level Development Inc. built, sold and managed properties, earning rental income from tenants and the federal Section 8 program.
Agents said Burke used an abandoned coin laundry in Delray Beach to receive mail for his businesses and witnesses said he picked up mail there once a week.
Prosecutors say Burke "has a complicated and deceptive financial picture" that includes "assets and income that cannot be readily identified or traced" partly because of his aliases and shell enteritis and the fact that many of his assets are held in trusts.
Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer ordered Burke locked up without bond pending trial after his arrest in August, noting that Burke has a long history of running from law enforcement and thumbing his nose at the justice system.
"Burke has engaged in a pattern of unabated and wide-ranging criminal activity since 1981. It is clear that he has neither been deterred nor rehabilitated by virtue of his previous encounters with the criminal justice system," Seltzer wrote.
Agents testified that Burke circled the block and sped off in his 2010 Mercedes when they tried to arrest him Aug. 21 outside his Lake Drive home.
They briefly lost him but soon spotted him stuck in traffic. They ordered him, at gunpoint, to surrender but Burke refused to unlock his car door for at least a minute while he finished a phone call with his brother, agents testified.
It was typical of his defiance, authorities said.
When he found out about the first federal indictment against him and his brother in 1992, Burke fled and hid out under fake names for four years before authorities caught him — after they chased and tackled him — in December 1996 in North Carolina.
When he got out of prison in 1998 after serving 18 months for bank fraud conspiracy, Burke told his probation officer "he was not going to have anything to do with" obeying the terms of his three-year probation sentence, records show.
He was sent back to prison for nine months in 2001 for violating the terms of his probation and was set free on Dec. 31, 2001, records show.
Another arrest warrant was issued for Burke for more violations of his supervised release a few months later, but he remained a fugitive — for nine years — until he was arrested in May 2011.
Even then, he was caught only because Secret Service agents tracked him down by tracing a cellphone signal they said was being used to commit fraud. He said he was living in Pembroke Pines.
Burke served another five months in prison for violating his probation and went free again because, due to the complexity of the fraud investigation that eventually led to his most recent arrest, prosecutors were not yet ready to file the new charges, they said.
"Burke was difficult to track down, based on the layers of shell companies, fictitious entities, and alias names, in which he held property and used to engage in business transactions," prosecutors wrote.
Burke lived in the Delray Beach homes with Garland, their children, Burke's parents and his brother, who Dominguez said is a disabled veteran.
Despite prosecutors' dim view of Burke's activities, several supporters lauded his character and charitable nature in letters they wrote to the sentencing judge in 2011. Family friends said he bought school uniforms and books for their children, paid for them to go to Disney World, coached and sponsored community basketball teams for kids and mentored teenagers whom he encouraged to go to college.
One woman wrote that Burke spotted the potential in a talented but underprivileged child and insisted on sponsoring the young man to attend one of the top boarding schools in the U.S. "to get a good education and develop his basketball talents," the woman wrote.
The young man went on to attend Louisiana State University, she wrote, begging for mercy for Burke.
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