It all started with mysterious disappearances of small things such as watch owned by a neighbor in Las Vegas, a mink coat in Washington and a car in Honolulu. Later on, using her dark charm, people began to disappear like the small things she took.
In her California home, as well as in her homes in Hawaii and Nevada, Mexican women were found to be held captive and enslaved. A dinner date with a banker in the Bahamas left the man never to be seen again. In Los Angeles, a man who knew enough about her was shot and found dead.
Last week, an elderly socialite named Irene Silverman was the victim. Sante Kimes, 63, and her son Kenneth K. Kimes, 23, conned the elderly woman who disappeared in the process. Her identity, her fortune, as well as her Manhattan town house were robbed from her by the mother and child scammers.
Although no body was found, the 82-year-old has been presumed dead while police claim they already have the suspects in custody a week after the disappearance of Mrs. Silverman. Having been apprehended due to an unrelated crimes, investigations on the suspects led to the discovery of a vast criminal history in various degrees.
Considered as one of the most crafty and diabolical con artists identified through numerous crimes committed from state to state throughout the years, a disturbing history unraveled behind the disturbing story of a mother and her child.
According to people who knew them, Sante Kimes was a ruthless mother who terrorized her children, and Kenneth was an impressionable son. Having an erratic relationship, the mother and child did not seem to be the likely partners in crime.
The Kimeses lived a life of both faux poverty and faux richness. It was a life of constant imbalance between living in luxury homes yet staffing them illegally with slaves. Lucrative businesses went up and down as they fought endless court battles as the scamming nature of Mrs. Kimes became apparent to people. It was supposed to be a typical story of an unsatisfied wife and mother who, in the end, obsessively manipulated and controlled others, as well as developed the habit of stealing. The man of the house was older but not wiser, as he was described to be a drunkard, constantly confining despite the depth of his love for his son Kenneth.
For those who knew Kenneth Kimes Jr., he was a boy who was well provided for, but lived in a household that exposed him to constant emotional chaos. Cloistered by a woman he knew as his mother, controlling every bit of his life and willing his obedience. Former acquaintances received mixed impressions between his hatred and love for his mother, swaying between the feelings of shame, fear and distrust towards her.
Sante Kimes, a woman expected by society to be the best example for her son, was a self-proclaimed criminal who thrived in committing crime despite the seemingly lack of motive apart from satisfying an inexplicable need. As a professional con artist, she committed crimes such as theft, which eventually progressed to murder. From keeping multiple identities to mislead creditors to burning her own houses to collect insurance, Sante Kimes hopped from one crime to another until she was imprisoned.
In the three years that she was away, Kenneth lived a normal childhood with his father and had a break from the trauma of being constantly controlled by his mother. When she came back from prison, the household went back to the way it was when she left. Unable to accept the situation, Kenneth ended up attacking his mother.
In 1994, the father of the household died. It affected Kenneth drastically that his behavior began to change. He started to become violent, noting the incident with his girlfriend from college where he was accused of committing domestic violence towards her. Other violent behavior were manifested toward other students from his college, and in some instances, the reasons were petty.
Much to the disappointment of those who knew him as a child, Kenneth became his mother’s accomplice. The once friendly boy who was unlikely to cause trouble or do misdeeds shocked them all when he became a part of the gruesome twosome. Old neighbors now suppose that his mother’s return triggered his violent nature as her presence pushed him to breaking point.
With the crimes surrounding Sante Kimes and her son Kenneth, the disappearances and murders were associated with them, but they have not received charges. With the missing Mrs. Silverman in New York, the dead David J. Kazdin in Los Angeles and the disappearance of Syed Bilal Ahmed in the Bahamas, the twosome are just suspects being held without bail awaiting trial due to a fraud case against a car dealer from Utah.
Looking at the Kimes closely, with the riches that surrounded them, it is puzzling that Mrs. Kimes felt the need to resort to illegal acts, especially after the death of her millionaire husband who left her with enough wealth. As a criminal, Mrs. Kimes is proud about the fact that she thrives in lying to other people, that her crimes were addictive that she had to do them again and again and it will never be enough.
Looking back at their family history, Sante Kimes, born Sandra Louise Walker in Dust-Bowl Oklahoma, she grew up in Las Vegas. Having been arrested for petty theft in 1961, more crimes followed including pilfering, car napping, etc., which were committed in various states including Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Santa Ana California, as well as other states within the United States.
Ten years after giving birth to a son named Kent Walker, Sante married Kenneth Kimes Sr., a businessman 16 years her senior. He was an owner of a construction company specializing in building motels in California, as well as owning some of those hotels, having one of them across Disneyland and the other one located in Palm Springs.
The marriage changed Sante’s fortunes. Over time, she and her husband maintained homes in Honolulu, La Jolla and Santa Barbara, Calif., and Las Vegas. They had their first and only child in 1975, and they named him Kenneth Kimes Jr. She was 40 at that time.
His son from a previous relationship was by then estranged from the family. Kent Walker worked as a vacuum cleaner salesman and was based in Las Vegas. Despite numerous attempts to get information from him, he refuses to speak about her family.
During the 70s, they resided mostly in their Honolulu beachfront house. According to Charles F. Catterlin, her former lawyer, Mrs. Kimes used different variations of “Sandra” for her aliases. These included Santa, Sante, Santee Sandy, Sane, Taj, etc. Surnames she used included Walker, Singhrs, Singhers, Singer, Saligman, Powers, Kimes, Jacobson, and Chambers.
In 1980, Sante was arrested at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel after stealing a mink coat from a piano bar worth $6,500. She delayed trial for five years using medical excuses, where the case was concluded by convicting her in absentia.
Winning the Neighbors’ Distrust
Moving the family to a two-story house in 2121 Geronimo Way, Las Vegas in 1980, they were hardly welcomed by their neighborhood since the beginning. Right after moving in and interacting with their new neighbors, things began to start missing. Neighbors recount their interactions with Mrs. Kimes and they described her as having “…mounds of hair…a large woman who wore scads of jewelery and an enormous amount of perfume.” Others remember her imprinting a certain quality of strangeness and a condescending attitude.
Referring to her relationship with her child, she apparently opposed to letting her son play with the kids from the neighborhood because his son, she said, “…is a genius.” Some observed that Kenneth seem to dislike his mother’s oppressive attitude, and that his father was often times too drunk to neither interfere nor be involved in the boy’s behalf.
The ascetic nature of the Kimses made sure that they keep much to themselves as they seldom entertain anyone in their home. Even the houses they live in speak of their personality, where the design of the house is almost devoid of windows, having only sliding doors with “keep out” signs on them.
The house was left in shambles as they often leave the house empty months on end earned the disrespect of the community. During the Fourth of July celebration, Kenny launched a rocket setting a neighbor's house on fire, causing the family to pay for settlement due to $170,000 worth of damages.
After the incidents, neighbors began seeing Kenny differently. The “genius” became an oddball for his lack of regard towards others. It may be due to the fact that he lacked interaction with other people as he was not sent to school for several years, and was trained by tutors accompanying the family while they travel.
One tutor named Cynthia Montano recounts that while in Mexico with the family, Mrs. Kimes told her to look for teenage girls who do not speak English and hire them as maids. Assuring their families that they will receive good pay and will be cared for, will be given regular days off, and will be allowed to all home.
The Mexican women were smuggled into the United States by the Kimses, taking one to two women at a time over the years. Neighbors saw the women around their homes in Las Vegas, La Jolla and Honolulu during the mid-80s.
One of the maids asked a neighbor help in their Las Vegas home, in 1985. The neighbors recall that “she looked panicky, frantic” and that the young woman asked for him to call the police.
That summer, Mr. And Mrs. Kimes were arrested due charges of slavery. In February 1986, seven maids testified that they were never paid, never allowed to take days off nor were they allowed to contact relatives. They also testified that they received physical and other types of abuse from Mrs. Kimes.
Despite knowing the offenses, Mr. Kimes did nothing about it and pleaded guilty to a reduced charged. He was given three years suspension as his sentence, and was asked to pay $70,000 as fine. Mrs. Kimes was imprisoned for five years.
A Shot at Normal
When Sante was imprisoned, Kenny was 11 years old. His father made a lot of changes in their lifestyle. He had a swimming pool installed, gave him a piano and allowed him to play with his friends. During this time, Kenny experienced going to school where some of his friends went and dropped his tutors.
One of his former friends recounts that his mother’s time in prison had been “Kenny’s golden years”, and talked about ”His father was a very kind guy, a good friend. We'd go over to his house and he'd buy 10 McDonald's. There would be four or five of us there lazing around.”
Everything that Mr. Kimes did during this period in time was for Kenny. Former friends say that the pool was constructed for Kenny’s birthday and for his party. He even took Kenny and his friends to Beverly Hills for a weekend trip.
At 67, Mr. Kimes sold his business to a fellow hotelier in 1986 and spent more time with his son. During this period, his net worth was estimated to be at $10 million. Having made almost no contact with his mother during this period, his friends recount Kenny not wanting to speak with her even on the phone, and that he was ashamed of her. One friend even spoke about his hatred towards his mother saying “He just said she was crazy.”.
After graduating from grade school, he attended Bishop Gorman High School where he got into sports, clothes, computers and a few short-term girlfriends.
The 360-degree turn
In 1989, Mrs. Kimes was released after serving three years of her five-year sentence. Friends now tell how traumatized Kenny was when she got out of prison. Kenny once again got dragged into traveling and dropped out of high school. They went to Tokyo, Hawaii, and the Bahamas. She did not want Kenny keeping association with any of his friends.
Once again, the family moved to Green Valley where Kenny has no friends, and transferred to a public high school. At 15, he became so angry and beat his mother. Nothing seems to have happened with his rebellion, and he was continuously transferred from one home to another, and where he had more tutors.
The last three years of his high school was spent in Hawaii, the Bahamas and Europe, where tutors always accompanied them. John Boettner, the person who recommended his tutors said that Kenny got himself admitted to the University of California at Santa Barbara.
In 1990, their Honolulu home caught fire, which was suspicious since it previously caught fire in 1978. The Chubb Corporation, their insurers, refused to pay the claim. This led to Mrs. Kimes filing a legal complaint against the insurers and began threatening Chubb executives through calls. She was sued back, and an injunction was obtained against her. Eventually, the complaint against her was dropped and no criminal charges were filed in the fire as it was declared to be a case of arson.
The Honolulu case did not progress but other dubious activities took place.
Neighbors saw glimpses of their Las Vegas house garage housing television sets and other appliances, which they assume to be stolen.
At one time, Mrs. Kimes reported to their insurers that some furnishings from their Las Vegas home have been stolen. This was contradicted by neighbors saying that they were taken away by a moving truck.
Their Las Vegas accountant, Ms.Meade testifies that Mrs. Kimes constantly have ongoing lawsuits, some under her name and some under her aliases. She helped Mrs. Kimes create false paper trails to confuse creditors, process servers and lawyers, up to the point of disclosing her own address and phone number to throw them off.
Mrs. Kimes also gave instructions to list their properties under other people where some of them were paid to go along with the tactics, other were just simply used without them knowing. Much to her surprise, she found out that she owned a house near Green Valley High, while Mr. Kazdin, a long-time friend and a businessman, was listed as the owner of their Geronimo Way house.
Despite the millions they have, Mrs. Kimes kept on stealing and conning people. Mrs. Kimes, Meade says, was so used to resorting to underhanded tactics just to get the most out of other people. She apparently reported a laptop missing and submitted an insurance claim in order to get it for free. As the Kimses accountant, Ms. Meade was asked by Mr. Kimes to keep all business-related information from his wife, especially those that had anything to do with his wealth. She was eventually dismissed due to the fact that she followed Mr. Kimes’ orders.
The Last Straw
While enrolled in Santa Barbara in 1994, Kenneth Kimes Sr. Died due to natural causes. How his wealth was divided was unclear. Before he died, a large plot of land in Santa Maria, Calif., was transferred under Mrs. Kimes’ name.
Mrs. Kimes hired engineers to survey the property in Santa Maria, where the land is expected to occupy 170 building lots for a housing development, which she refused to pay.
Kenny, on the other hand, was heavily devastated by the loss of his father. He now began to foster a closer relationship with his mother whom he used to hate, saying now that he did love his mother simply because she is his mother.
In 1995, a year after his father’s death, Kenny Kimes manifested violent nature when he got uncontrollably angry and abusive from a dispute over money. His cat soiled Carrie Louise Grammer’s friends’ bed. Carrie ended up filing for a restraining order against him, saying he became verbally abusive after the incident.. Mr. Kimes, she said, had promised to pay for the $75 worth of bed linens and then handed over only $35.
In her complaint, Ms. Grammer recounted several instances of abuse, including violence against his ex-girlfriend, as well as beating up another student – both of whom he claimed to be innocent from. Ms. Grammer says that Kenny “came at me in a threatening manner.” She also recounted how he cursed her. The state judge told both parties to stay away from each other.
Kenny dropped out of college in 1996 and began conspiring with his mother by filing malpractice lawsuits against Dr. Joseph Graves, a plastic surgeon from San Diego. The complaint was due to what he said to be a “botched nose job”. Her mother on the other hand claimed that she fell from the operating table during one her face-lifts and suffered from a head injury. The lawsuits were dismissed when plaintiffs did not appear in court.
In September of the same year, Sante and Kenny were in Nassau and were meeting with Syed Bilal Ahmed, a 55-year-old Bahraini who worked for the First Cayman Bank in the Cayman Islands. He was investigating irregularities at the Gulf Union Bank in Nassau, a subsidiary of the First Cayman Bank. People confirmed that Mr. Ahmed was in constant contact with the Kimeses during this time. He was presented with an on-line business venture by the mother and son pair and accompanied by them on his last trip to Nassau. He was scheduled to have dinner with Mrs. Kimes the night he disappeared. All his belongings were also missing from the Radisson Cable Beach Resort in Nassau where he was checked in. The mother and son pair left Nassau and he police were unable to question them regarding the incident.
Investigators failed to question the Kimeses due to lack of evidence that would link them with the banker’s disappearance.
Insurance Scamming and Bouncing Checks
After the incident in the Bahamas, Sante Kimes attempted to cash in their home in Geronimo Way, which was named under Mr. Kazdin’s name. It had been under his since 1992 and, as Mr. Kazdin’s lawyer later stated that the house was signed under his client’s name as a favor to the late Mr. Kimes.
Mrs. Kimes’ next victim was an indigent man from Las Vegas whom she found from a homeless shelter. Frank McCarren became the new owner of the Geronimo Way house, while Mrs. Kimes mortgaged it for $200,000 from a Florida bank.
After getting fire insurance for the house under McCarren’s name, Mrs. Kimes attempted once again to claim for damages from the fire on Jan. 31. Arson was determined as the cause of the fire after finding the presence of flammable liquid on the upstairs and the downstairs of the house.
After investigations, Mr. McCarren told investigators that Mrs. Kimes forced him to take part in the scam, and had held him prisoner, abused and bullied him to lie and answer probing questions from investigators. Mrs. Kimes once again failed to collect insurance claims.
As the situation worsened, the Florida bank that gave mortgage on the house contacted Mr. Kazdin to confirm the mortgage. During the investigation, Mr. Kazdin informed the bank that he did not apply for any mortgage. He was later found dead on March 14, and the Kimeses became the primary suspects who, by them, were nowhere to be found.
In April that year, the Kimeses bought a ‘97 Lincoln Town Car, which was delivered to Los Angeles by a Cedar City, Utah car dealer. It was paid for in check at $14,900, which bounced.
After filing for a complaint, the dealer found the Kimeses to have left along with the car. By this time, they were already headed for Florida.
Leaving a trail of bad checks, the Kimeses bought a motor home for $80,000. It was later found abandoned in Florida.
Using a fake name later in June, Kenneth rented a $6,000 a month apartment in New York, located at the East 65th Street. The townhouse was owned by Mrs. Silverman. A few weeks after, the pair was found to have forged paperwork in order to assume Mrs. Silverman’s identity and take over her properties. Mrs. Silverman disappeared on July 5 of that year.
That same evening, Sante and Kenneth Kimes were arrested at the New York Hilton due to arson and all other scams that they allegedly pulled, but not for murder. Numerous evidences were found in their car, which implicated them in the various crimes they committed across states.
Sante and Kenneth Kimes were convicted without parole for the murder of a family friend and business associate. Mrs. Kimes was convicted for the murder of Irene Silverman in 2002. She was also found guilty of ordering her son Kenneth into shooting David Kazdin after threatening to expose the scam she attempted to pull involving a $280,000 loan under his name. Mrs. Kimes is considered to be “one of the most evil individuals” as stated by Judge Kathleen Kennedy Powell.