Local News Spotlight

Thief going back to prison for failing to disclose wealth

Updated: 2012-11-21T06:01:51Z

By MARK MORRIS

The Kansas City Star

When you’ve only paid $10 a week toward $1.3 million in federal restitution, it’s never a good idea to hide that you’re also running a multimillion-dollar real estate business.

Clarence D. Burnett, 38, learned that lesson in a big way Tuesday. A federal judge sentenced him to three years and five months in federal prison for failing to disclose all of his business dealings to his probation officer, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Burnett, a colorful figure in federal criminal circles, was the government’s chief witness against four men convicted in 2001 of robbing and fencing more than $2.5 million in jewelry taken during a daring robbery of Tivol Jewels on the Country Club Plaza in 1997.

In testimony, Burnett acknowledged organizing that and more than a dozen other robberies or attempted robberies. But he turned on his confederates to shave his prison exposure to the Tivol heist and for a previous drug conviction.

In 2000, Burnett gave authorities information that helped convict former Kansas City Chiefs players Tamarick Vanover of car theft and Bam Morris of drug trafficking.

Defense lawyers contended strenuously for years that Burnett would testify to anything to cut a possible life sentence on the drug case.

After his release from prison in October 2007, Burnett began making small payments toward his restitution and returned to the real estate business, which always had been an interest for him.

In reports to his probation officer, Burnett disclosed that he was making about $1,700 a month from his real estate and auto detailing businesses, and driving a 2004 Ford Ranger pickup. He later upgraded his salary to $1,800 a month and purchased a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado.

But according to court records, he never told his probation officer that he also ran six other real estate firms, which had purchased dozens of properties in Jackson County.

His eight bank accounts showed maximum balances totaling more than $1 million in 2011 and 2012.

To purchase the properties, Burnett obtained about $2.7 million in bank loans, according to federal court records.

Burnett also purchased two Mercedes Benz automobiles, $25,209 in furniture, about $33,264 in clothing and $17,687 in jewelry. And in 2009 and 2010, Burnett was spotted driving and servicing two high-end BMW automobiles.

“Defendant failed to disclose this information to the United States Probation Office,” federal court records noted.

Federal prosecutors did not allege that any of the money for this came from any illicit source, only that he did not tell his probation officer.

Burnett’s lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

To contact Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to mmorris@kcstar.com

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