Fraud draws longer sentence

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Duane McKinney could have expected a sentence of eight to 10 years in prison under federal guidelines as he awaited punishment Thursday for stealing properties in the names of dead people.

But U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton decided that wasn’t enough. He sentenced McKinney to prison for 12 1/2 years instead.

“I’m absolutely certain that there will be other victims who will fall at your feet,” the judge said, citing McKinney’s lengthy rap sheet, which included eight unrelated convictions and more than two dozen arrests.

McKinney, whose attorney described him as mentally ill, was convicted in various fraud and theft charges last year, which involved forging deeds on properties in the names of dead people.

In one case, prosecutors said, McKinney spent just a few dollars to falsify a deed, then sold the property for more than a quarter-million dollars. Prosecutors said they found 14 properties in the D.C. area tied to the scam.

McKinney’s troubles began in 2006 when Arlington police spotted him and his BMW on the side of Route 50. Inside the car, they discovered a duffel bag with more than $150,000 in cash. Prosecutors seized the money after learning that McKinney was facing numerous civil fraud lawsuits in the District over his real estate dealings.

Prosecutors also said McKinney put money from the scam in the accounts of a nonprofit group he ran called the Brotherhood of Men, which authorities have described as a “shell” entity that did little or no nonprofit work. They also said he used the proceeds to buy another BMW and a Mercedes-Benz.

The Washington Times first reported on McKinney’s legal troubles in 2006. At the time, he told The Times that his nonprofit had provided job training to disadvantaged youths in the District.

On Thursday, McKinney apologized but said prosecutors were being “untrue” by calling him a danger to the community. He also said he’s helped feed the homeless and passed out 8,000 American flags for free after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I mean, I didn’t set out to try to rob anyone,” he said.

But Assistant U.S. District Attorney Virginia Cheatham said McKinney “lacks a moral compass.” And in sentencing memos, she outlined the impact of the real estate scam on working-class families.

“Not only were the heirs and owners cheated out of their homes, but the innocent third-party buyers paid money for property they believed the defendant had legal authority to sell,” she wrote.

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