Scam suspect to change plea

Posted: Wednesday, August 30, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Anthony Kesler, the North Slope Borough's former chief of staff who is accused of running a phony charity, has asked to change his not-guilty plea, the Attorney General's office said Tuesday.

A felony change of plea hearing was scheduled for Sept. 22 in Barrow Superior Court. Assistant Attorney General Helen Valkavich said Kesler's remaining options are a no-contest or guilty plea.

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

Cimino, 53, pleaded no contest Monday to the misdemeanor charge of promoting gambling. In exchange for that plea and for Cimino agreeing to testify against Kesler, the state dismissed the more serious charge of scheming to defraud, Valkavich said.

Kesler benefited from the alleged scheme in a number of ways, including awarding himself $15,000 in scholarships to study government at Harvard University in 1995 and 1996, Valkavich 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 court documents. 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 prosecutor 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.

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