I guess the question that I would have from a manufacturers point of view, are or should we investigate our potential partners further/deeper, meaning personal background checks? I know that we use D&B for credit worthiness and industry references but I know that we do not run criminal checks, should we??
Man Convicted for $11 Million Fraud Touts Verkada Partnership
A Pennsylvania man convicted of a multi-million dollar fraud has become a security systems integrator touting his partnership with Verkada two years after his release from a five-year federal sentence.
The man remains on probation after being convicted of "mail fraud, wire fraud and loan fraud" of more than 50 of his clients, even earning a segment on the TV show American Greed.
This raises concerns about who should be selling security systems and what practices manufacturers should take in vetting and choosing their partners.
Burns Runs Integrator
Timothy D. Burns is the founder and CEO of Reliant, Enterprise IT Solutions which his LinkedIn describes as "a full-service IT Consulting firm" providing Network Security & Infrastructure and Electronic Security":
Prior to founding Reliant in 2018, Burns was in prison.
Burns was released on January 15, 2019, per court records:
Burns told IPVM that "My official sentence ended 7/18/2018 then followed by 6 months supervised release". He confirmed that he is currently "under probation which will be ending shortly".
In 2015, Burns was sentenced to five years in prison for "mail fraud, wire fraud, and loan fraud" after pleading guilty in 2013; between "at least" 2007 and 2012, Burns used money "entrusted to him by more than 50 clients" for his "personal gain", including "more than $4 million" to "buy a shore home in Avalon, New Jersey", the DOJ said:
Facebook Shares Issue
FBI Agent Chris Philips described Burns in an episode of American Greed:
Tim Burns is in a difficult position himself, a desperate situation. He had been embezzling money from his clients. He needed to repay this money and he also wanted to make money for himself.
The 7:34 minute American Greed excerpt highlights Burns' case:
Burns Response On Prison
Burns told IPVM that he wanted to ensure that IPVM is aware of the facts, specifically:
These opinions especially the 9th Circuit clearly explain the circumstances of my matter. Outside of that I have no comment. Anything that is written to the contrary will be responded to you by my counsel.
Burns sued Stratos for the fraud Stratos committed, with the 3rd Circuit Court opinion explaining that:
Burns sought to recover $60 million dollars, the amount he claims he would have earned in commissions and fees if the transaction had closed.
The 9th Circuit Court opinion has many other details including noting that:
Throughout the negotiations, managing agent Burns communicated with “Dennis” through Stratos’s email@example.com email address
And the 9th Circuit Court opinion differentiated the frauds that occurred:
Although managing agent Burns did spend investor money, it was not the same investors or money at issue here; managing agent Burns did not participate in the wrongdoing alleged here but defrauded a different group of investors with respect to a separate and unrelated investment fund. [emphasis added]
Burns Business Post Release
Burns told IPVM that 'my businesses currently do $15 million' and that 'ReliantIT is less than 30% of my businesses'. Burns's LinkedIn profile also lists "Reliant Group of Companies", "an early stage Venture Capital Firm" as well as Burns Construction.
Burns is active on LinkedIn, repeatedly posting about Verkada, for example, writing this month he was "look[ing] forward to expanding our partnership with Verkada to much greater levels":
In response, a Verkada salesperson commented "it's been a pleasure working with you on this project" and that he was also "looking forward to seeing what the future has in store":
Here is another Verkada project touted by Reliant last week:
Reliant, Enterprise IT is small, reporting 5 employees on its LinkedIn:
Prison Time Obscured
In a speaker profile for Penn State's 2019 Smart Campus Summit, Burns is described as a "consultant for over 20 years" omitting mention of the 5-year sentence:
Note: Reliant IT was previously named / marketed as ZenaniIT.
Penn State told IPVM that they were not aware of Burns' background:
Penn State was not aware of this speaker’s background and notes that he was one of 22 speakers at this annual conference, which rotates among various universities. As is common for academic conferences, background checks are not typically conducted for speakers visiting areas open to the public, and speakers are generally selected from broadly publicized calls for presenters.
Meanwhile, Burns' LinkedIn profile makes no mention of his prison time, instead stating that while incarcerated he founded and ran a company:
Burns emphasized to us that:
I do not hide from my past. I look forward to working with my very close contacts who run major enterprises and organizations.
We noted to Burns that his bio on Reliant IT's website does hide the prison sentence, claiming that:
Tim founded a successful family office for a network of affluent Philadelphia families
By contrast, the DOJ determined that:
[Burns] converted money entrusted to him by more than 50 clients and would-be investors for his personal gain [...] [including] to buy a shore home in Avalon, New Jersey, for more than $4 million
Burns replied to IPVM that:
I stand by my previous comments to you and look forward to growing the 3 companies we are today with our trusted customers and partners and the 4th that we will be announcing shortly.
Verkada Cites Ethical Business Practices
We previewed our findings and concerns with Verkada, Verkada responded generally with a link to their ethical business practices page, saying:
Thanks for raising this to my attention. You can find the terms of our ethical business practices on our partner application page here, which we expect all partners to abide by in their dealings with Verkada and end customers.
Verkada's ethical business practices center around complying with laws but Verkada offered no clarity about this situation or about partnering with felons, convicted of fraud, on parole.
Question of Manufacturer Partnership
One question the Burns case raises is what responsibility should manufacturers have for the companies and people they partner with?
Security System Integrators As Felons?
In particular, the issue is what responsibility do security system manufacturers and integrators have to partner with or be run by felons? This was discussed in a recent IPVM forum: Should We Hire An Ex-Con?
Criminal convictions can run a wide range of offenses, many of which many will find to be minor.
However, a fraud conviction plus being on parole for that conviction is clearly a more serious concern for those who specify, sell and maintain security systems, especially for large enterprises and government clients who are aiming to mitigate security risks yet could be exposing them to greater ones that are obscured by their providers.
Vote / Poll
Update February 2021
A Verkada salesperson posts a LinkedIn update touting a 'great partnership' with Burns:
Update Mary 2021
Verkada and Burns are co-sponsoring a Nascar race car this weekend, says Burns:
The other question is, even if you do not run a criminal history background check, if you do find out, what do you do then?
I guess I thought that the local licensing boards would conduct these type of checks and perhaps even have stipulations regarding past criminal convictions and the ability to hold a license. I know that we require background checks for employment but cannot recall where we had a situation where a person was refused a position based on the results. Certainly an interesting topic and one that I will enjoy following.
The unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on who you ask) thing in PA is that the licensing systems is very weak. Unless something changed in the past couple of years, PA had a contractor registration systems, but it didn't require background checks, just basic info. That could have changed.
Some municipalities in PA have licensing requirements. But what's required varies drastically. I know in Allentown, we applied for an electrical license with the city at my last job, and it just required a form and $10, no actual experience or checks. Alarm/security installers didn't need anything.
I believe to do work in Philadelphia, you need verifiable experience and security work generally falls under electrical licensing. But even that process doesn't sound like it requires a background check.
The unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on who you ask) thing in PA is that the licensing systems is very weak
I think this holds true with many states. Michigan here and it is not that much more strict or challenging. It is harder to get an ADI account.
Same in Massachusetts. It's part of the electrical licensing (Class D and Class C). There is certificate of clearance that is required for all staff and requires state issues background checks but most companies I've seen do not follow through with acquiring it for every employee.
On top of that, ISP's like Comcast and Verizon are excluded from needing licenses via an old loop hole in the licensing requirements that was written in for the phone companies back when they were an installation service. Thankfully they have smart lawyers who saw that and made sure some of the biggest richest companies in the country are not required to license up or do background checks to preform similar work the smaller companies are licensed to engage in. Don't want those plebs eating into their corporate pie.
Texas in 2020 also eliminated "security Salesman" background checks to streamline the Alarm Company Licensing and Regulation bureaucracy. The Company is responsible for setting restrictions and vetting backgrounds.
Lobbied against this change. Sad.
? for you
If Burns want to pay for IPVM
would you let him?
If a convicted felon wants to buy a hoagie, should Wawa let him?
The issue is not about what such people should be allowed to buy but what others should buy from them. The fact is clients gave him money, he defrauded them and he is still on parole for that.
So the real question is would you invest in a security system that he tries to sell to you?
JH, do not be a politician
please answer the question:)
It is one thing to have an employee with a criminal background who's work can be audited. The owner of a company does not have that same oversight.
No person who is still under the purview of the courts should be allowed to own or operate or be involved in the security industry.
Fox guarding the hen house!
IPVM Team; my concern here is that you don't even mention the fact that he and his company are also involved with at least 16 other security manufacturers as well as you ignore the fact that a IT Integrator is also most likely involved with the cyber security aspects of the enterprise clients that they serve. Now I am sure that he personally is not involved with day-to-day implementations and support on these system but he may still have access to sensitive data.
Part of my concern here is that multiple manufacturers are involved as partners with this company but your team totally ignores that fact and focuses only on one manufacturer.
You also mention that the company is involved with a school district and in my experience most contracts involving schools require all sorts of non-collusion and background check disclosures so that begs the question what was in the contracts between the company and the school?
People deserve a second chance. There isn't a person alive who hasn't made a mistake. For those of you who've been following the GameStop news this week, how many of the well-heeled investment professionals at Citron Research (recorded a 100% loss) and Melvin Capital are likely to go to prison?
Perhaps Mr. Burns shouldn't be working on school security systems, but how can people with past transgressions move on and contribute to society if companies are shamed for hiring and working with them?
Criminal justice reform will never work if society denies past offenders a second chance.
I mostly agree with you and in fact, have hired 2 felons myself. I support giving 2nd chances HOWEVER, I find it just a little fishy, and frankly not very smart, for someone to get busted and go to prison for a crime and then come out claiming they've reformed but choosing to work in or start a business in an industry just like the one they got busted in or anything close. So if a guy went to prison for bank robbery, I wouldn't trust his "reformed" claim if he choose to get a job in a bank. I'd be more believing if he chose instead to get a job in say, Forestry or education or fire fighting or something.
Agreed, if he or anyone else served their sentence this should not even be an issue. It is definitely not up to the manufacturer to do background checks either. I'm not a huge fan of Verkada, but I don't see how this is relevant.
And of course he doesn't mention prison on his LinkedIn, I would find it more odd if he did mention it.
doesn't mention prison on his LinkedIn, I would find it more odd if he did mention it.
Why would it be more odd if he truthfully disclosed what he did for roughly half of the past decade?
I've never seen a LinkedIn profile that mentioned prison time in their "Experience" section. Is it normal for people who have served time in prison to mention it on their profile?
This applies if someone gains transferable experience/skills from prison and is actively seeking employment, not as a public disclosure of criminal history.
#6, then consider Burn's own bio on his company website:
Could he not mention it there? I get why someone might not want to mention it, because it's negative information but it represents most of his last decade.
He could have even presented it as a positive. "X turned his life around...."
In my experience with ex-felon employees, it would NOT be common for them to include this information in a resume HOWEVER, they would most likely answer honestly if the question is part of a written application they have to fill out. The ex-felons I've hired are truly reformed and trying to do the right thing to earn their place in society again but that can be difficult in our unforgiving society. They certainly wouldn't be likely to post this information voluntarily on LinkedIn or any other social media site. In fact, its now uncommon for them to be embarrassed by it and they'll go to great effort to hide that past like wearing long sleeves at all times to cover prison tattoos etc. I think for most of them, its not a past they're proud of and they'd like to leave it in the past.
I do appreciate that you have hired felons. If a felon can become a lawyer, seems reasonable that they can install a camera. Burns has created jobs in our struggling industry , no doubt about that. He legally from what i can tell has been installing access control.
Don't get me wrong, I support 2nd chances and have hired ex-felons HOWEVER, I am leery of an ex-felon who is still under the courts supervision and fresh out of prison going into a highly sensitive industry where the crime they committed involved trust, fraud etc as those are things that "installing a camera" (we both know there's more to what he's doing than installing a camera) could give him access to a network where he could recommit the same crime. Some of my ex-felon hires come from 12 step (AA, NA) addiction programs and those programs advise that I only hire people with at least a year of sobriety and crime free living under their belts. The recidivism rate is apparently high in that first year out of prison. So in the interest of taking every precaution, we follow that advise and are very open and honest in discussing the subject and our potential risk in hiring them so any "issues" can be discussed openly and immediately.
the recurring security industry is not overly concerned with protecting people in their homes and businesses they are ruled by RMR nothing more nothing less and that brings out all kinds of nefarious people
In New South Wales, Australia people providing security services require a licence from the police, the issue of which is prohibited based on criminal history.
See legislation here.
It's different to the American experience as here, getting convicted is generally a big deal whereas it's my understanding it's a lot easier to get arrested in the US and perhaps not as damning - the 'whole man test' and so forth.
That said, we still have plenty of crooks in the industry. They just haven't been caught yet...
I'm of 51% the man did his time and should be allowed to move on and hope he has reformed.
49% damn well should be scrutinized for what he did.
This subject should be brought up and made aware to people, but not hammered to the point he cannot do business.
If a person has paid their debt to society and is not hiding from it then they should be able to earn a living.
IPVM is no better than the National Enquirer in promoting this story.
is not hiding
He cannot hide it from the Department of Justice because it is on the DoJ's website but that's not because he is choosing not to hide it but because he has no control over the US Department of Justice, correct?
What does listing this on his bio, profile, or website actually accomplish? I just don't see how this is relevant. Is there an expectation now that you should disclose this information on LinkedIn or company profiles? The CEO of American Airlines doesn't mention his record on his bio or LinkedIn.
The CEO of American Airlines doesn't mention his record on his bio or LinkedIn.
The CEO of American Airlines spent 1 day in jail in 2007 for DUI, The CEO of Reliant IT spent ~5 years in jail for fraud and is still on probation today.
These are radically different cases, no?
I suppose we just have differing views. I don't think publishing that information on LinkedIn or his website does anything and I don't share that same expectation that he or anyone else needs to put that on their profiles.
I don't share that same expectation that he or anyone else needs to put that on their profiles.
He volunteered the statement "I do not hide from my past" but according to information he submits online, he does hide it.
Defrauding one's client is an issue of trust. We can certainly have differing views but my view is that I am not comfortable buying something from someone who defrauded their clients and, even more so, when they say they do not hide from their past while hiding it in their own postings about themselves.
I'd have more confidence in a person that proactively admitted their past, especially when it was so significant (5 years sentence) and so recent (still on probation).
"I'd have more confidence in a person that proactively admitted their past, especially when it was so significant (5 years sentence) and so recent (still on probation)."
Let's take you for example JH
If you had any "interaction" with Police within the last 15 years
Would you disclose?
I have not been convicted of any crime, ever. I was arrested once ~20 years ago on a misdemeanor and the charges promptly dropped, without me doing a thing.
We've gone from discussing a person currently on parole convicted of an $11 million fraud to any "interaction" with police 2 decades ago.
To address your broader question, I don't think people publicly need to disclose or address convictions for misdemeanors and that's why we have never covered such a case.
Our legal system makes it difficult to get beyond convictions and prison time. That said, there are some areas that convicted felons should NOT get into. That includes anything related to client security for companies, government and individuals. I find it surprising that anyone in the security field would think (13%) it OK to have felons working in the industry. Trust is the single most important factor in relationships. Fraud and theft are examples of ethical breaches. Remember, the best way to anticipate future behavior is from documented past behavior. In one month several years back, we interviewed two technicians currently working in the alarm field; one had seven warrants from a known drug area, one had three felony convictions for receiving stolen property and one burglary conviction. We could NEVER put these techs into one of our client's facilities. Apparently 13% of readers think having felony convictions for issues of trust is OK???
Statewide Security, Redmond WA
That was a nice commercial James. I'm sure the FBI or US govt hiring the best hackers to protect the govt is a problem too?
Reminds me of the Frank Abagnale story.
The difference between Mr. Abagnale or a hacker and Mr. Burns is that the former are being employed as "white hats," they're using skills acquired from their criminal lives to prevent others from engaging in similar criminal behavior.
While I support Mr. Burns's quest to move forward in his life, you can't say (and there is no evidence) that he is using knowledge acquired from the crimes he was convicted of during his financial advisory days today as an integrator.
Both have very questionable pasts. Both pose(d) sustainable threats to society. Both also did their time, and both also could benefit society by doing the job they were hired to do.
Note: I am not defending them.
In many ways fraud is a sleazy crime
So is selling a system that will only work if you keep up the monthly payments & that cannot work with other (similar) products
Where I am this gentlemen could not legally do what he is doing, and to be honest I feel that is the way it should be.
Oh where for art thou critical thinking?
Time and time again, simple iterations of a Ponzi scheme trump the group thinkers.
Posted the poll question on LinkedIn:
Right now, it's 86 / 14 on IPVM voting and 90 / 10 on LinkedIn's.
This story is layered. It appears at face value that you stuck this guy to the wall cause you got beef with Verkada (Solid beef? Yes, that company is a shade on our industry), regardless of your response to my takeaway; you must know that, that opinion is a takeaway. We are not just responsible for intent, we are just as responsible for trying as hard as we can for the listener to gain accurate interpretation of our intent. This story is sloppy, it throw's bows and is a bit of a bull in the china shop. The author's aren't incorrect, licensing and certification are very valuable to our industry. People are a sum of consequences to our actions and if you chose to not take moral high ground and have a run in with the law of your land, then there are consequences. This guy should not be an IT director or a systems integrator when it comes to security, that is just the outcome of the choices he has made. It hurts the industry and from the skeptical point of view it puts people at risk. But that is only an opinion, but I hold to it.
Now the author clearly has no grace for his actions, showing a tone that makes one assume they have never seen an instant that becomes a life altering mistake, or have had family that have made those mistakes that land one in prison. Even if correct, the comments have been a tad tone deaf. As someone with a close relative who served time for a mistake, I've seen that people do change and the whole of one person is not equivalent to a moment. Does that change my opinion? No. Does that mean I consider others when speaking about it? Yes.
The other massive layer to this is the philosophical debate is through the lens of criminology. It isn't good to perpetuate the ill mindset that once a criminal always a criminal. The sentence from a judge should be just that, a sentence. If the time is served and life has shaped and moved on then technically they should be seen as doing their time and now being given back some freedoms. Also, he was only imprisoned because someone decided it was a law. Law is black and white, people are a sea of grey. There are endless factors to his situation, we will never know; thus we will also never know if we would have done the exact same thing. And is that the argument here in this article if the author would have done the same thing in Burns shoes? No. But to consider it might cause one to look outside themselves. This article and most comments are one dimensional looking at a 60 dimensional story.
I don't have a problem with the conclusion of this article but the tone. IPVM is a news source, inferring there is more of a cold nature to the machine of investigating and reporting from a neutral stand point. But the delivery needs to take into account the warm complex nature of the human being. You ousted this guy, possibly causing a moment of getting back on his feet to come back to the ruins he knows all too well.
Once again. Opinion. I could be wrong. I could be a little right. It won't matter in two days, but I do think the tone of this press will.
#14, good feedback, I gave it an informative, lots of thoughtful points made.
As for the Verkada relationship, anyone who has any intel on other security system integrator CEOs on parole for a multi-million dollar fraud, please, please let us know - firstname.lastname@example.org It would be even more newsworthy if it was for Axis, Genetec, Milestone, or other companies with strong favorability. We'd happily publish on that.
That it was Verkada here and that Verkada kept this on-parole partner is noteworthy as well.
You ousted this guy, possibly causing a moment of getting back on his feet to come back to the ruins he knows all too well.
I believe if you are going to sell security systems and you are currently on parole for a fraud felony, it should be fully disclosed upfront, at the very minimum. We spent time gathering feedback from Burns and sharing his feedback in this report. On net, given his various online bios hiding his prison time, conviction, and currently being on parole, potential buyers and partners should be aware.
I believe if you are going to sell security systems and you are currently on parole for a fraud felony, it should be fully disclosed upfront, at the very minimum.
Also IPVM is one of the most necessary mechanisms in this machine. So thank you.
This still feels like a dig a Verkada that went sideways. The title alone mentions Verkada but not Burns. So if I click on the article, I am probably leaning towards the Verkada mention and not a mysterious "man". Should he of mentioned it in his online bios? Unless he is legally required to it is all opinion.
Does this mean that we will be seeing an article soon on how Google Cloud partnered with this company? Just saying "what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Here, you are conflating Burns touting a partnership unilaterally versus it being reciprocated by the alleged partner. Burns can claim to partner with anyone.
Burns tagged a number of people but none of them are from Google. That said, if Google employees tout a partnership with Tim Burns, sure, it's even a bigger story.
In this case, Verkada, despite clearly knowing Burns is on parole, continues to publicly tout their partnership with him. Short-term profits aside, what does this say that Verkada has no qualms about publicly partnering with a man on parole for a multi-million dollar fraud?
Long term profits considered, what does it say? Do people really care if Verkada works with someone who appears to be operating within the law? If I eat at a restaurant and someone told me that one of their meat distributors touted on LinkedIn that a farmer, who was on parole for fraud, was a partner I could really care less. If I like the food, I'll still eat it and come back. If someone likes Verkada they likely aren't going to lose sleep about them posting on LinkedIn about partnering with Burns.
told me that one of their meat distributors touted on LinkedIn that a farmer, who was on parole for fraud, was a partner I could really care less
That's quite a scenario! The person was convicted of fraud and then became a farmer? I'll humor you.
If I was the restaurant, I would be concerned that this hypothetical on parole for fraud conviction farmer would send me produce that might be tainted (and could poison my customers) or try to defraud me. And, to be clear, by farmer, let's agree this is the person who owns the farm and controls its operation (like Burns here) and not just someone who works on it.
2011: Tim Burns Investor
2021: Tim Burns, Investor
The Burns / Reliant / Verkada sponsored car raced yesterday, coming in 29th out of 37 entrants:
Burns continues to expand with Verkada, now saying they did work with Verkada in 6 states last week:
Looks like Verkada has one go-to integrator across the US?
Update: Burns says he is now hiring in "all 50 states":
Looks like Veraka and Reliant are not partners anymore. No mention of Verkada on the website. I would love to hear this story...
Thanks for pointing that out and sharing that link - no mention of Verkada there and I just checked Burns and Reliant IT's LinkedIn post, no mention of Verkada in the last year.
I asked Verkada if they can confirm whether Reliant IT is now a current Verkada partner.