OAKLAND – Anthony Keslinke, 48, of Danville, was sentenced to four years in prison today for his leadership role in a large-scale bank fraud conspiracy and a separate money laundering conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.
Keslinke pleaded guilty in May of 2015 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. In pleading guilty, Keslinke admitted that he used straw buyers to purchase real estate throughout Northern California between 2011 and 2014. Keslinke identified properties, including his own properties, that were potential candidates for a “short sale.” A “short sale” is a sale of real estate in which the sale proceeds are less than the balance owed on the mortgage loan pertaining to the property and often occurs when a borrower cannot pay the mortgage loan.
In furtherance of the scheme, Keslinke submitted offers to the financial institutions on behalf of straw buyers. In order to induce a bank to accept a short sale offer, Keslinke would draft fraudulent financial hardship letters and submit them on behalf of the seller of a property. In addition, in order to give the appearance to the financial institutions that the properties were worth significantly less than true fair market value, Keslinke often altered engineering and pest reports associated with the properties. Moreover, in furtherance of his scheme, Keslinke often altered bank account documents to create the appearance that the straw buyers had sufficient funds to purchase the properties in cash. Once a financial institution accepted a particular property for a short sale, Keslinke used his own funds to purchase the property in the name of the straw buyer. After a short sale was completed on a particular property, Keslinke maintained control of the property and often sold the property for a significant financial gain. Keslinke admitted using this mortgage fraud scheme to orchestrate the short sale of properties in Danville, Walnut Creek, and Kings Beach, California.
Keslinke also admitted that between August of 2013 and February of 2014, he met on multiple occasions with an undercover agent purporting to be a drug dealer. Keslinke accepted a total of $550,000 from the undercover agent. In an attempt to conceal the true source of the funds, Keslinke repeatedly deposited the money received from the undercover agent into business bank accounts under his control. Keslinke then attempted to launder the money by wiring it from his business bank accounts to an account controlled by the undercover agent. Keslinke routinely kept 8-10% of the money provided to him from the undercover agent as a fee for his services.
The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Jon S. Tigar. In addition to the prison term, Judge Tigar also ordered the defendant to pay a forfeiture judgment in the amount of $2,086,405 and a fine of $50,000. Keslinke also agreed to forfeit $1,722,426 in cash seized from his residence and his bank accounts. Judge Tigar also ordered Keslinke to pay $1,427,916 in restitution to the victims of the charged crimes. Judge Tigar also sentenced Keslinke to a three-year period of supervised release.
At the time of the investigation, Keslinke was in the midst of trying to buy the card room license from the owners of the closed Kelly’s in Antioch. He was seeking approval from the California Gambling Control Commission, after receiving conditional approval from the Antioch City Council in November, 2013.
However, the City and council members were unaware of the FBI investigation at the time and weren’t informed until after Keslinke’s arrest.
Antioch Councilwoman Mary Rocha, who attended Keslinke’s sentencing hearing on Friday, submitted a letter on his behalf, telling the court of the things he had done in Antioch, including buying and renovating the ABC Building on A Street and the Friendship Care Home on Cavallo. She didn’t speak, but said about 30 others did in support of Keslinke.
Also in attendance was Linda King, the daughter Al Cianfichi, the owner of Kelly’s. For years, she worked in the restaurant and bar part of the family-owned and operated business, which is named after King’s daughter and because her mother, Mrs. Cianfichi is Irish. She said the family didn’t know Keslinke when someone brought him into their place in 2013 and he decided to buy it. However, King stated “there has never been a purchase and sales agreement” for the business from him.
“Keslinke’s money laundering scheme had nothing to do with his interest in buying Kelly’s and his attempt to buy the card room license,” she added. “What he did was separate from him trying to have business dealings with us. All he did was apply for his gaming license. We never entered into negotiations.”
“The local level cleared him on his background check and even the state level approved him, so they weren’t aware of the FBI investigation, either, to my knowledge, ” King continued. “We found out about his arrest in the newspapers.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Wegner and David Countryman are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Vanessa Vargas and Carolyn Jusay. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA and IRS. The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and Livermore Police Department also provided assistance during the investigation. The investigation was conducted and funded by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a multi-agency task force that coordinates long-term narcotics trafficking investigations.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.