Former Whitehall car dealer gets probation for defrauding bank

2012-12-20T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T03:44:34Z Former Whitehall car dealer gets probation for defrauding bankBy Kevin Murphy | For the Tribune La Crosse Tribune
December 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

MADISON — A former Whitehall-area car dealer who defrauded a bank of $136,000 took “extraordinary” steps to repay his debt, said a federal judge who on Wednesday sentenced him to five years on probation.

Daniel J. Keenan, 42, bought his father’s Chevrolet and farm implement dealership in tiny Coral City near Whitehall in 2005. Keenan continued two lines of credit his father established with Citizens First Bank of Trempealeau, which were to be paid down in monthly installments.

But sales at Keenan’s, Inc. plummeted in 2008, a time when 56 dealerships closed statewide.

In June that year, Keenan understated to bank officials the number of vehicles the business sold. That allowed him to use sales proceeds to pay sales tax, insurance and other expenses and continue a $136,000 line of credit, defense attorney Coad wrote to the court.

A month later Keenan admitted he falsified inventory records, and a business that never was very profitable was broke, Coad wrote.

In court on Wednesday, Coad said Keenan never personally profited from the fraud he committed; he instead naively tried to keep the business afloat until the economy improved.

Coad asked for a probation-only sentence saying the fraud was a one-time occurrence; Keenan worked to sell off the inventory to minimize the bank’s loss, liquidated all available assets and took out a $75,000 loan to be applied to his bank debt.

Keenan, who now works as an electrical lineman, needs his job to provide health insurance for his family’s medical care, Coad said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Grant Johnson called Keenan “one of the few defendants he has seen,” who has worked as hard to repay a bank.

“The $200 to $300 monthly payments on the $75,000 loan are probably substantial amounts for a family in a meager financial situation,” Johnson said.

District Judge William Conley echoed Johnson’s remarks, saying although what Keenan did was all too common among car dealers, his response after admitting his guilt was “better than anyone I’m aware inside or outside of the criminal justice system.”

Although Keenan faced 15 to 20 months in prison under the advisory sentencing guidelines, Conley said he would depart from the guidelines due to Keenan’s lack of prior convictions, his sincere remorse and the unlikelihood of his re-offending.

Conley ordered him to make $61,587 restitution to the Citizens First Bank.

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