Convicted scam artist nabs prime prison real estate

Courtesy PhotoKeith Wilson scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars from trusting community members in the Richmond District.

Courtesy PhotoKeith Wilson scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars from trusting community members in the Richmond District.

Completing his transformation from community pillar to heartless pilferer, Keith Wilson is heading off to prison.

The slick-dressed businessman who posed as an outspoken advocate for the Richmond district while scamming community members out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has struck a plea bargain with prosecutors that packs a five-year state prison term, the District Attorney’s Office said. Wilson, 56, is expected to be sentenced Thursday.

At one time, locals said, Wilson appeared to have it all. His son reportedly attended a private elementary school and his wife played tennis almost daily at a country club. He contributed funds toward community causes, was highly active in business and social circles, and was an outspoken opponent of bus rapid transit on Geary Boulevard.

But those who came to trust Wilson would eventually discover his dark side. The man who had been a fixture at merchant meetings, according to locals, had been defrauding trusting community members with a “far-reaching” real estate investment scam.

In January, Wilson was arrested in Stockton and later charged with bilking seven people out of more than $400,000 total. Police said Wilson used his fake persona as a wealthy community cheerleader to persuade locals to invest in distressed or foreclosed properties. He promised to buy the properties, fix them up and resell them at a profit.

But Wilson, who failed to produce the profits, never purchased the properties, and several investors grew suspicious. They investigated and learned that an investment made on a Milpitas home had never been acquired by Wilson or his businesses, Tribecca Properties LLC and Lone Cedar Corp.

At the time of his arrest, a member of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchant Association who requested anonymity said Wilson “lived really well with those people’s money.”

Attorney Jordanna Thigpen, who is largely credited with bringing the scam to light, said a senior citizen had invested $115,000 with Wilson, a “substantial” portion of his retirement savings. After Thigpen filed a lawsuit on behalf of three victims, Wilson disappeared, leading to a 22-month police hunt and 34 search warrants.

On Friday, Thigpen credited San Francisco prosecutors for delivering swift justice. That doesn’t happen often when it comes to financial fraud, she said.

“Often it is difficult to have these people sentenced,” Thigpen said. “Look at Wall Street; they’ve done way more damage than someone who’s done a drug crime.”

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsSan FranciscoSan Francisco Police Department

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