BALLSTON SPA — They stood before Saratoga County Judge James Murphy one after another, victims of a former Moreau home sales company and its owner, telling how they had been financially devastated.
Eight people in all told of the impact that the crimes of Sherrie A. Burton, former owner of Valued Homes of Moreau, had on them, costing them tens of thousands of dollars, leaving some of them homeless and all of them in tough financial straits.
They told of reprehensible lies by Burton, of how she strung them along while taking their money and spending it on herself with no intention of getting them the manufactured homes they had contracted for.
Cynthia Perkins told Murphy that the $20,000 Burton stole from her was money left to her by her father when he died, specifically to buy a home. She said Burton knew that, but took the money anyway.
“This has been an endless and heartbreaking journey,” Perkins said.
Caroline Mosca told how Burton’s company, Valued Homes, had an A+ Better Business Bureau rating when she paid $24,000 for a down payment on a home in 2017. The Moscas were told the home was being built, but after Valued Homes closed, learned that none of the money had been paid to the home-building company.
“She was a true con artist,” Mosca said.
“She has no conscience. She couldn’t have done this if she did,” said Deb Fleming, who had a $10,000 home down payment stolen.
One victim, Nancy Rivett, who lost $58,000 to Burton in a home deal, was so overcome with emotions she could not read her victims impact statement. Her statement indicated she lost weeks of work time and has to take anti-anxiety medicine because of the loss.
Burton’s lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said the victims’ statements had a “profound impact” on his client, and that the deaths of her husband and son who ran the business with her “shed some light on what went wrong” with a company that had a good reputation for more than two decades.
She went into a “deep depression,” learned that tools and equipment had been stolen and found subcontractors who were asked to do the work of family were “unreliable,” he said.
Burton offered a brief statement in court, saying she was “truly sorry” and would “live for the rest of my life for how I screwed up.”
Murphy lambasted Burton’s conduct as “reprehensible” and “unconscionable” in imposing the maximum of 3 to 9 years.
Burton, 65, showed no emotion as the victims spoke, although she did say “I’m so sorry” to some of the victims as they walked by her in court.
Burton agreed to a plea deal that included a potential range of sentences, ranging from 6 months in jail and 5 years on probation on the low end, up to 3 to 9 years in prison on the high end. Murphy opted for the maximum under the terms of the plea deal.
A court judgment will also be entered, directing her to pay up to $700,000 in restitution for 39 different victims, although prosecutors estimate the total loss was over $1 million.
Burton’s guilty plea Sept. 23 to felony grand larceny and scheme to defraud came in connection with her thefts from dozens of customers who had given money to her companies — Valued Manufactured Housing and Valued Homes — as down payments on homes that weren’t delivered or completed. Several victims lost more than $100,000 apiece.
She admitted stealing from “more than one person by false or fraudulent pretenses” by misrepresenting her actions and stealing more than $50,000 from a customer in 2017.
Burton falsely represented to customers that they needed to put a substantial deposit down for the manufacturer to begin construction of their new home, while in reality the manufacturers did not require such a deposit.
She also obtained financing to buy floor plan or display models and illegally sold them as new models to many customers, leaving victims without legal title to the homes and lenders believing the homes were still on display in her showroom.
In all, the Attorney General’s Office said it heard from more than 40 people who claimed they were victimized by Burton and her company. The crimes began in 2014, before her husband and son died, Assistant Attorney General Ben Clark said.
Authorities said she used the money on vacations, shopping and trips to Turning Stone casino.
Burton declared bankruptcy last October. She had been prosecuted for a similar case in the 1990s, when she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to probation.
“If this was the first time I might have sympathy for you. But it wasn’t the first time,” Murphy told her.