Elizabeth A. Aschinger
Elizabeth A. Aschinger
May 9, 2013

The co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Carroll is the third person to be criminally charged for an alleged scheme to blackmail a Lake View farmer - who is her father-in-law - for more than $55,000 last month.

Elizabeth A. Aschinger, 23, of Carroll, was charged Wednesday with felony conspiracy to commit extortion, according to Sac County court records. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

A criminal complaint accuses Aschinger of providing information to two men - Andrew Menken, 36, of Carroll, and Jason D. Heffelmeier, 39, of Buckingham - who allegedly threatened farmer Randall Aschinger, 58, that they would reveal the information to expose him to hatred, contempt and ridicule unless he paid $55,555, court records show.

Investigators have declined to release more details of the threat.

Elizabeth Aschinger had allegedly agreed to take half of the blackmail money.

Investigators connected Menken, who was the juvenile court officer for Carroll County before he resigned the job on Tuesday, to the crime with cellphone records.

Menken and Heffelmeier allegedly used a prepaid cellphone starting on April 8 that wasn't registered to anyone to anonymously send threatening text messages to Randall Aschinger and to instruct him where to leave money.

Aschinger left $2,900 at McHose Park in Boone on April 13 based on those instructions. A law-enforcement surveillance team attempted to capture the extortionists at the park but failed. They recovered the money, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure said.

Cellphone records showed that the prepaid cellphone and Menken's personal cellphone called Aschinger that day, and that both phones operated off of the same cell tower near Boone.

Menken and Heffelmeier each face two felony charges for theft and extortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison if they are convicted of the crimes.

Elizabeth Aschinger allegedly provided her father-in-law's cellphone number to Menken and Heffelmeier and also deleted evidence of the blackmail scheme from Randall Aschinger's cellphone, court records show.

Elizabeth Aschinger and her husband Steve bought Anytime Fitness in Carroll last year. Menken and Heffelmeier exercise there, court records show.