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Former Pa. used car dealer, 75, sentenced to jail

January 18, 2001

Former Pa. used car dealer, 75, sentenced to jail



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A 75-year-old former used car dealer who had been charged with illegally selling cars and setting fire to the business last year was sentenced Wednesday to serve time in jail.

Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Walsh on Wednesday sentenced Elwood Ulice Keefer, who owned J.W. Auto Sales Inc., at 1784 Lincoln Way East, to from 15 to 30 months at a State Correctional Institution.

The sentence was for four counts of theft and one count of criminal mischief to which he had pleaded guilty.

Walsh suspended the sentence to allow Keefer instead to serve seven months in the Franklin County Prison on work release, seven months at home on electronic monitoring, and 84 months probation to enable him to make restitution to his victims.

Keefer initially was charged with more than 40 counts each of theft by unlawful taking and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, as well as 43 counts of failure to remit sales taxes and proper forms.

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He also had been charged with four counts of arson and one count each of recklessly endangering another person, criminal mischief and insurance fraud, according to court documents. Those charges stemmed from a Jan. 31, 2000, fire that destroyed a garage behind the dealership.

In exchange for Keefer's plea, most of the charges against him were dropped.

Keefer's sentencing was continued from Dec. 13 to allow him time to make some restitution, said Assistant District Attorney David Rauhauser.

Keefer, who has not made any restitution in the last month, offered to pay $3,000 Wednesday but did not have the money with him.

"I don't have it with me but I can get it," Keefer said. "I know I am indebted to a lot of people. At the age of 75 I am willing to work and pay people back."

Jim Reed, Keefer's attorney, said his client was going through a divorce so the status of his assets, and ability to make restitution, was in limbo.

"My client's position has consistently been concerned with paying money back. I'm afraid if he is incarcerated on work release, he will get another job locally not paying as much," Reed said.

Keefer said he makes between $1,000 and $1,500 at a car dealership in Frederick, Md.

Reed asked the judge not to impose jail time because Keefer would not have any way to get to Frederick on work release.

Walsh said he was not inclined to grant the request.

"You came before me on Dec. 13 asking for time and you didn't make restitution. I don't know when you think you need to start facing up to this," Walsh said. "It's time to pay the piper."

The state had alleged that between Jan. 4, 1999, and March 1, 2000, Keefer sold 43 cars worth $449,900 to 42 people and failed to pay state sales taxes on the cars.

J.W. Auto Sales purchased vehicles from an auto auction in York, Pa., using money from Automotive Finance Corp. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Auction Finance Group of Miami. When people bought the cars the money was not turned over to the finance companies, which held the titles on the cars and trucks, according to allegations in court documents.

The fees and taxes paid by the buyers were not turned over to the state, court documents alleged.

Customers brought the scheme to the attention of police when they did not receive their titles by the time their temporary registrations ran out.

Keefer owes more than $200,000 to the companies, which are in the process of transferring the titles now, Rauhouser said.

"I'm not sure what motivates a finance company to surrender liens. They took the position they would not fight with consumers who believe they had purchased the vehicles," Rauhauser said.

Keefer may also have to pay the state for tax on the cars, but that has not been decided.

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