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Former Garden Grove police chief sentenced to house arrest

May 4, 2009 |  4:36 pm

A former Garden Grove police chief and mayor has been sentenced to 90 days of house arrest and three years' probation after admitting to charging $8,000 in personal expenses on a city of Canyon Lake credit card.

Frank Kessler, 76, pleaded guilty in March to embezzling public funds and charging thousands of dollars in casino tokens, alcohol and personal expenses to a city credit card on a 2008 cruise to Hawaii with his wife. At the time, he was serving as a councilman in Canyon Lake, a small community near Lake Elsinore in Riverside County.

In a letter to the city, he described the crime as a "stupid mistake."

Riverside County Judge James Warren on Friday ordered Kessler to serve only 60 days of electronic home confinement because of health concerns, according to the Riverside County district attorney’s office.

After rising through the ranks of the Tucson Police Department, Kessler was hired as Garden Grove's top cop in 1976. He held the post for 12 years. He won a seat on the Garden Grove City Council, served as mayor and later moved to Canyon Lake, where he also served as mayor.

As a convicted felon, he will not be able to hold office again.

Kessler’s wife, Suzanne Kessler, 59, is in deeper trouble, facing 23 felony counts, including grand theft and embezzlement, for allegedly obtaining more than $800,000 in loans under false pretenses from friends, neighbors and colleagues, including the mayor and city manager of Canyon Lake, and then paying them back with bad checks. In one instance, she allegedly wrote a bad check to her husband.

-- Tony Barboza