Crime

Judge orders arrest of ex-Ada worker accused of theft from dead

April Rice, a former state employee who is one of two defendants in the theft/forgery case involving the Ada County Treasurer’s Office.
April Rice, a former state employee who is one of two defendants in the theft/forgery case involving the Ada County Treasurer’s Office. kjones@idahostatesman.com

A judge in Boise has issued an arrest warrant for a former Ada County employee accused of stealing from the estates of two people who died without wills or heirs.

Meanwhile, the state has refiled charges against a second woman in the case, a state employee whose charges were thrown out by a magistrate last month for lack of evidence.

The women are accused of stealing more than $31,000 from one man’s estate and an undisclosed amount from another man’s, whose assets included a house and two cars. Prosecutors said the women forged a will to obtain the second man’s assets.

The former county employee, Eleasha Jenkins, worked in the Ada County Treasurer’s Office, which handles the estates of county residents who die without a will or any heirs.

Jenkins’ public defender asked a judge not to issue an arrest warrant when Jenkins did not show up for her preliminary hearing June 28. The attorney, Heidi Koonce, said Jenkins was unable to get a ride from Ontario, Ore., to Boise for the hearing. Koonce said Jenkins has been in touch with her “and is eager to get this matter taken care of,” according to court documents.

The judge denied the request and issued the warrant two days later. Jenkins, 43, had not been arrested and had not turned herself in by Tuesday afternoon, nearly four weeks since the order.

Jenkins faces three felony counts of grand theft and two felony counts of forgery. She was summoned and arraigned on Feb. 26 and had been released on her own recognizance.

The second defendant, April Rice, had all charges dismissed during her June 7 preliminary hearing before Magistrate Judge James Cawthon, who said the state had failed to show that Rice intended to steal from the estates.

The Attorney General’s Office would not say why it refiled the charges, which are identical to the charges filed in January. Rice, 44, faces three felony counts of grand theft and five felony counts of forgery. She was summoned and arraigned on the new charges on June 23. No bond was set, and she was released on her own recognizance.

The theft charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $25,000. The forgery charges are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

From April 2013 to April 2015, Jenkins administered the estates of “intestate” county residents. Her office named Rice a trustee of Daniel Jullion’s estate. Jullion was a friend of Rice’s who died in August 2014 without heirs.

County employees delivered five boxes of Jullion’s personal papers to Rice. One contained a check from the Treasurer’s Office for $31,349. Rice said she believed the check was part of Jullion’s estate and deposited it into a bank account she opened to hold his trust assets.

The check represented proceeds from another estate the Treasurer’s Office processed, that of James Hood. It should have been given to the state treasurer as unclaimed money, not to Rice.

Jenkins and Rice are accused of forging the check and Jullion’s will.

Rice, a former state manager who oversaw security at the Capitol Mall and other state buildings, was suspended without pay from her state job in early February. She filed a tort claim on Feb. 16 against the county and Treasurer Vicky McIntyre, alleging that lack of oversight led to Rice receiving proceeds from the wrong estate. Idaho law requires a tort claim to be filed before a lawsuit is filed against a government body.

The judge set Jenkins’ bond at $25,000. A new preliminary hearing date has not been set.

Rice’s preliminary hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Friday, July 29, before Judge Teresa Gardunia.

Rice’s attorney, Chuck Peterson, did not respond to a request for comment.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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