Slick-dressed Keith Wilson drove a swanky Lincoln Continental, had an impressive office on Geary Boulevard and was an outspoken fixture at merchant meetings in the Richmond district.
His son attended a private elementary school. His wife played tennis at a country club “pretty much every day.” And he made heaps of cash contributions that benefited local organizations.
But the man who appeared to have it all was allegedly getting rich by duping the very community for which he advocated, merchants and residents say.
Wilson, 56, was arrested last week in Stockton on charges that he defrauded at least seven community members of more than $300,000 as part of a real estate investment scam.
Wilson used his fake persona as a wealthy community cheerleader to convince locals to invest in distressed or foreclosed properties, according to police. He allegedly promised to buy the properties, fix them up and resell them at a profit.
The problem, police said, is that Wilson never purchased the properties.
“He fooled us all,” said a member of the Greater Geary Boulevard Merchant Association who wished to remain anonymous. “He lived really well with those people’s money.”
Several investors grew suspicious after Wilson failed to produce the promised profits. They investigated and learned that one of their investments, a home in Milpitas, had never been acquired by Wilson or his businesses, Tribecca Properties LLC and Lone Cedar Corp., police said.
A senior citizen invested $115,000 with Wilson, a “substantial” portion of his retirement savings, said attorney Jordanna Thigpen, who is largely credited with bringing the alleged scam to light.
Thigpen filed a lawsuit on behalf of three of the victims, but Wilson disappeared. That led to a 22-month police hunt in which 34 search warrants were served, police said.
Wilson was described as a Bernie Madoff-style con man.
“They perpetuate the aura of respectability and profitability,” Thigpen said.
Wilson was highly active in business and social circles. He was an outspoken opponent of bus rapid transit along Geary Boulevard, and he penned an opinion piece in the Richmond Review calling for more community involvement in the transit plan.