Court officer charged with extortion
The Carroll man faces two felonies for a $55,555 blackmail scheme
May 8, 2013
The juvenile court officer for Carroll County faces two felony charges for allegedly trying to blackmail a Sac County farmer last month for more than $55,000, court records show.
Andrew C. Menken, 34, of Carroll, allegedly threatened to reveal information about farmer Randall Aschinger, 58, of Lake View, that would expose him to hatred, contempt and ridicule, according to criminal complaints filed against Menken and another man on Friday.
Menken resigned from his court officer job on Tuesday, said Bill Watson, the assistant district court administrator for Carroll's district.
Menken and his alleged cohort, Jason D. Heffelmeier, 39, of Buckingham, used a prepaid cellphone starting on April 8 to send threatening text messages to Aschinger and to instruct the man where to leave money, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure alleges in the complaints.
Menken and Heffelmeier allegedly collected $2,900 from Aschinger on April 13 in Boone.
The prepaid cellphone used for the crimes was not registered to either Menken or Heffelmeier, but investigators used cellphone records to tie Menken to the phone. The records showed that both the prepaid cellphone and Menken's personal cellphone called Aschinger on April 13, and that both phones operated off of the same cell tower near Boone, according to court records.
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. Menken appeared in court on Tuesday and was released.
Menken did not return a telephone call today to comment for this story. Court records do not show what information he allegedly used to blackmail Aschinger.
As a juvenile court officer, Menken supervised children younger than 18 who were on probation and met with them at home or at the courthouse, said Thomas Southard, the chief juvenile court officer for Carroll's court district. Menken also decided which criminal complaints against the juveniles should be resolved out of court and which ones should be heard by a judge.
Menken was suspended from his job in 2010 for knocking a man unconscious with one punch to the face on a city sidewalk in Glidden.
Menken was charged with assault causing bodily injury for the incident, in which he saw the victim, Justin Heim, walking along North Idaho Street in the early morning hours of March 21, 2010, stopped his car, got out, punched Heim and fled, court records show.
The attack was the result of an unspecified confrontation earlier that night at a Glidden bar, according to the Daily Times Herald archive.
Menken pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of simple assault and received a deferred judgment, in which Menken was never formally convicted of the crime. The court case file has since been sealed from public view, as Iowa law allows for deferred judgments.
Heim and his wife Stephanie filed a lawsuit against Menken in March 2012 for their mental and physical pain and suffering and loss of work income. The lawsuit, which is set for trial next year, doesn't specify how much money the Heims seek, but a letter their attorney sent to Menken three months before they filed the lawsuit asked for $50,000 - roughly the same amount that Menken allegedly tried to extort from the Sac County farmer.
"They were considerably upset as to how Mr. Menken could remain a juvenile probation officer after the assault," the attorney, Jeff Minnich, wrote in a separate court document.
Menken faces another lawsuit in Greene County for a June 2010 crash in which Menken was eastbound in a car on U.S. Highway 30 and struck the back of another car that had slowed to turn near Scranton. A trial is set for August.
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