QUEENS -- Over the years I’ve gone after a lot of schemers, scammers and scoundrels.
Derrick Burrell fits all three categories.
I first heard about him when I got a complaint from Steve Bernier of Queens back in 2012. Burrell, who billed himself as a contractor, took $100,000 from Bernier and his wife. He was supposed to renovate their house. He gutted it and then disappeared.
“It’s devastating for the whole family,” Bernier told me at the time.
And the Queens DA’s office says Bernier did this to about 12 people. They include Wilmer Barreto, Viviana Lamb and wheelchair-bound grandmother Carol Gulston.
Finally, the law caught up with Burrell. He was busted in the spring. And earlier this week pleaded guilty to grand larceny and scheming to defraud. The judge sent him up the river for one-and-a-half to four years -- the deal worked out between the DA’s office and Burrell’s attorneys.
We wanted to have our camera in the court, so we could show you the victims telling the judge how badly Derrek Burrell has disrupted their lives. But the judge denied our request. So we talked to them outside of court where they voiced displeasure with the sentence.
“We lost our home. And we’re trying to rebuild… and start over," Steve Bernier said.
“Even four-and-a-half (years) is just a slap on the wrist,” according to Wilmer Barreto. “It’s just an insult.”
Carol Gulston says she’ll soldier on. “It’s a shame that this happened to me and I have to move on and do what I have to do.”
“What do you think would’ve been adequate justice in your mind,” I asked Viviana Lamb. “Four years per incident. And definitely restitution afterwards!”
Restitution. That’s what they really want. They’re all out tens of thousands of dollars. But we’ve been told that investigators looked closely at Burrell’s finances. They couldn’t find anything. The money he ripped off is apparently gone.