John Steven Keplinger quit importing used automobile engines from Japan, but told his U.S. online buyers he was still getting the engines.
After getting paid, Keplinger simply didn’t send an engine to customers or shipped a defective one, often obtained from a junkyard.
The rip-off dramatically cut his overhead and beefed up the bottom line, but led to personal ruin.
Federal authorities nailed him for fraud, and he was sentenced Wednesday to two years and three months in prison and fined $100,000.
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The prison term, which is the low end of a range spelled out in federal sentencing guidelines, was agreed upon by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hales and Assistant Federal Defender Benjamin Galloway, and adopted by U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller.
Keplinger, 56, of Stockton, pleaded guilty in September and admitted that, even when a state court in 2013 ordered him to shut down his business, Rising Sun Engines Inc., and its website, he continued to operate under two other company names until October 2014.
He further admitted that the fraud, which began in “at least January 2010,” worked successfully to bilk more than 300 customers in 44 states and the District of Columbia. A hearing on how much restitution will be paid to the victims is scheduled for March 30, although Hales and Galloway have agreed that the loss for restitution purposes does not exceed $470,000.
Keplinger “defrauded hundreds of financially challenged individuals who struggled to afford engines to keep their cars running,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Manuel Alvarez of the FBI’s Sacramento field office.
Galloway wrote in a sentencing memorandum submitted to Mueller that, by Keplinger’s own account, when his business floundered as a result of the recession that gripped the economy starting in 2007, he “gave up on everything, my family, my business, myself … everything. I couldn’t even be bothered to renew my driver’s license. I just shut down. I believe this was an unrecognized and undiagnosed case of depression.”
Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189