Former North Slope official charged with running charity scam

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2000

The North Slope Borough's former chief of staff is being accused of profiting from a phony charity and using the money, among other things, to send himself to Harvard.

Anthony Kesler, who resigned from his $135,000-a-year job in 1996, and Patrick Cimino, former president of the Democratic Party's Browerville Precinct, have been charged with scheming to defraud, a felony, and promoting gambling. Kesler, who also was treasurer of the precinct, faces numerous other charges.

Kesler benefited from the alleged scheme in a number of ways, including awarding himself $15,000 in scholarships to study government at Harvard, said Assistant Attorney General Helen Valkavich.

The announcement of that scholarship in a local newspaper was the spark that led to the investigation, officials said.

Kesler, 43, was granted a gaming permit in January 1995 to sell pull-tabs under a charitable organization called the Nuvuk Democratic Club, according to papers filed Friday in District Court in Barrow. The following year he asked to renew the permit.

On both applications, Kesler said Nuvuk was connected to the Democratic Party. He said proceeds would go toward political candidates, scholarships, community activities and needy families. His application said he would not receive any compensation.

But instead, said Valkavich, ``the primary objective of creating this organization was to obtain money for himself and his relatives.''

Prosecutors say in addition to the scholarships - the only ones awarded by Nuvuk - Kesler received $40,000 from gaming proceeds through his business, Pac-Rim, which had a contract to manage the pull-tab operation.

State auditors found numerous problems with Nuvuk. They said they found gaming expenses were paid with cash instead of checks signed by two people, financial statements were inaccurate, and records were poorly maintained.

William Oberly, Kesler's lawyer, said his client is innocent.

``Tony and I feel he didn't violate any laws,'' Oberly said.

Cimino, 53, is living in Los Angeles. When asked about the gaming operation, he said, ``I don't have any information at all, I'm sorry.''

Kesler and Cimino could be arraigned within a month.

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