The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 16, 2012

New charges in Keiper capers

MIDDLEBURG —  Convicted thief Kurt J. Keiper continued to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims right up until he pleaded guilty in January to ripping off customers who paid about $340,000 for vehicles he never delivered, state police allege.

Keiper, who is being held in Snyder County jail in lieu of $4.5 million cash after spending eight months on the lam to avoid sentencing on 12 counts of theft and bad checks charges, is facing 11 additional counts of theft and deceptive business practices for allegedly victimizing five more individuals and businesses across the country.

According to new criminal complaints filed by state police at Selinsgrove, Keiper, 41, the co-owner of Summit Transport Services in Middleburg, stole $144,000 from customers who paid him for vehicles he failed to deliver during separate transactions that took place between August 2009 and last January.

The most recent alleged theft occurred Jan. 20, 11 days before Keiper pleaded guilty in Snyder County Court to similar prior thefts.

Police say on that day John Lafond, of Bellefonte, drove to Keiper’s home at 340 Thousand Oaks Lane, Franklin Township, Snyder County, to look at a 1966 Airstream Camping Trailer Keiper had placed for sale on Craig’s List.

Lafond paid Keiper $1,000 for the vehicle which was never delivered, court records said.

A month earlier, on Dec. 5, 2011, even as charges were pending against Keiper, W.K. O’Leary Farms of Danvers, Minn., sent Keiper $23,500 for payment and delivery of two vehicles the company never received, court records said.

“He sold me a bill of goods,” said Randall Essenlohr, owner of Essenlohr Motors in Lowville, N.Y., who claims he was scammed out of $29,000 he paid Keiper on Aug. 26, 2009, for a 2008 GMC truck.

Essenlohr said Keiper, who was hired to haul vehicles for him, heard the Northern New York businessman was interested in purchasing a certain truck and offered to find one for him.

“It sounded to good to be true,” admits Essenlohr, who paid up when Keiper showed him serial numbers to prove he had the vehicle. “It was a risk.”

Keiper is also charged with scamming Lenz Sales and Service of Fond du Lac, Wisc., out of $57,500 for three vehicle and Lenz Sales Vice President Duane Mulvaine out of $33,000 for one vehicle each paid for on Feb. 22, 2010, but never received.

Keiper, who has a criminal history of scamming customers out of money, is facing a potential 10-year to 20-year state prison sentence when he’s sentenced on the dozen theft and bad checks charges he pleaded guilty to in January.

Before the April 5 sentencing hearing, however, he took off and remained on the lam until last month when an anonymous tip led to his capture near Durango, Colorado.

Keiper allegedly admitted that he initially fled to Alaska where he lived under two aliases before relocating to Colorado in March where he remained until his arrest. He was brought back to Snyder County last week and is being held in lieu of $4.5 million cash bail.

Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, said state police are investigating how Keiper was able to support himself and his wife, Jessecca, and two children, while living on the run.

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