Uncle who stole from kids’ settlement sentenced to 7½ years
By KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 29, 2013 3:04PM
In this March 2006 photo, Rashone Burnett, at right, is pictured with his sister's children, whom he took custody of after and vowed to raise after their mother died in a CHA fire. | Sun-Times file
Updated: August 31, 2013 6:21AM
A thieving uncle who bankrolled his lavish lifestyle with up to $1 million he stole from his tragically bereaved nieces and nephews was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years behind bars Monday by a federal judge who called his excuses “a fat bunch of baloney.”
Rahshone Burnett, 34, was supposed to use a $5.75 million court settlement to raise his sister’s five surviving children after his sister and her youngest child died in a fire at her Chicago Housing Authority home in 2001.
But while the kids continued to live in poverty on the West Side, Burnett instead frittered away a large part of the payout CHA gave the children, spending it on a Bentley with the license plate “FLYHI,” diamond jewelry and a fancy home for himself and his girlfriend in suburban Westchester.
He eventually even used his nieces’ and nephews’ settlement to support a heroin business.
At a lengthy and emotionally fraught sentencing hearing Monday, Burnett apologized to his family, telling Judge Matthew Kennelly that he’d wrongly “felt entitled to stuff” after he took the children in following his sister’s death.
Several relatives wrote to the judge, saying they’d forgiven Burnett, and Krishonna Bond, 20 — one of the defrauded nieces — tearfully urged the judge to spare her uncle, who she said was “like a father to me.”
But Kennelly said he felt the victims’ sympathy had been “bought” by Burnett’s lavish and inappropriate spending, adding that it was “not up to the victims to choose the punishment.”
The judge has yet to determine exactly how much Burnett will eventually have to pay back, but he said it was somewhere between $400,000 and $1 million.
Burnett has also yet to be sentenced for a drug conviction arising from his heroin business.
The CHA agreed to pay the children millions in 2006 after it emerged that there was no smoke detector in their Harold Ickes projects home when the blaze that killed their mother started.