Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Man pleads to cheating investors out of $719,000
Formerly of Lititz, he avoids facing 20 of his victims at trial
A former Lititz man on Tuesday admitted cheating real estate buyers out of $719,000 by enticing them to invest in bogus deals.
William Kevin Kelly, of Ocean City, N.J., pleaded guilty to 23 counts of wire fraud and money laundering that he faced.
The plea came on the day his trial was finally to begin in Philadelphia federal court. It had been postponed three times.
Kelly remains in custody in the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, where he's been since his indictment last April.
Sentencing is set for April 18.
Kelly's attorney, William Cannon, said his client chose to plead guilty after at least 20 witnesses agreed to testify that they were his victims.
"I think it's a result of him considering the testimony to be offered against him by numerous people who felt they had been defrauded and the harsher consequences that would flow if he stood trial and was convicted," Cannon said.
The attorney called the choice "a wise decision."
"Generally," Cannon said, "district court judges look a little more compassionately at people who plead guilty, rather than take up the court's time, when the evidence is overwhelming."
Kelly stood accused of cheating 21 real estate buyers on transactions involving homes in Lancaster city, Lititz, Elizabethtown and elsewhere.
Kelly once worked for real estate offices in Lancaster, Elizabethtown, Harrisburg and Hershey, according to state records.
He lost his license to sell real estate 17 years ago, according to the indictment.
Despite losing his license, he still portrayed himself as a real estate salesman, according to the indictment.
The unlicensed Kelly solicited buyers to give him money for real estate deals from at least 2005 through April 2012, according to the indictment.
He claimed to have extensive experience and a highly profitable real-estate firm capable of doing deals that would generate sizable returns.
Kelly portrayed the properties he targeted as underpriced homes in or near foreclosure.
To make investors comfortable with handing over their money, Kelly said their funds would be kept in an escrow account or secured by his own assets.
Kelly also insisted that the deals were nearly complete and that big profits were imminent, according to the indictment.
But instead, Kelly spent the funds on "personal purposes," according to the indictment.
These included a dating service, shoes, clothing, restaurants, groceries and iTunes, prosecutors said.
Kelly then allegedly gave the investors false excuses, nominal payments or bad checks.
To hide from his victims and authorities, Kelly frequently used a false home address and conducted his financial transactions through his mother's bank account.