Sacramento, California - John Steven Keplinger, 56, of Stockton, was sentenced Wednesday by United States District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to two years and three months in prison and a $100,000 fine for mail fraud in connection with an auto engine scam, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.
On September 23, 2015, Keplinger pleaded guilty. The total estimated loss from the fraud is up to $470,000. A hearing for the final determination of restitution for the fraud victims is scheduled for March 30, 2016.
According to court documents, from 2010 to 2014, Keplinger carried out a fraud scheme by purporting to sell used auto engines from Japan, but failing to provide customers what he promised. Over 300 paying customers across 44 states and the District of Columbia were defrauded. Keplinger used three companies and websites to carry out the fraud scheme: Rising Sun Engines Inc. (www.risingsunengines.com), Shop 4 Engines LP (shop‑4‑engines.com), and Your Parts Manager (yourpartsmanager.com). Most of the time, Keplinger’s customers paid by check sent via UPS. After Keplinger accepted payment, he either sent no engine at all or sent the customer a defective engine obtained in the United States, often from a junkyard. United States Customs and Border Protection records indicate that Keplinger had stopped importing engines in 2007.
In August 2013, Keplinger faced legal action from the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and he was ordered to stop conducting an auto parts sales business of any kind and to cease using any website to conduct such a business. Instead, Keplinger continued the fraud scheme well into 2014.
“John Keplinger defrauded hundreds of financially challenged individuals who struggled to afford engines to keep their cars running. He leveraged the Internet to victimize people across the United States,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Manuel Alvarez of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Sacramento field office. “We thank the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their partnership in this investigation and both the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and California Bureau of Automotive Repair for their assistance with the investigation.”
San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated: “Postal Inspectors work closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement to arrest and prosecute those individuals responsible for fraud schemes committed against the public.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service, with substantial assistance from the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office and the California Bureau of Automotive Repair. Assistant United States Attorney Christopher S. Hales prosecuted the case.