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Man Who Claimed Mystery $20,000 Lands in Jail on Other Matters

Times Staff Writer

A Pacoima man who had claimed a briefcase stuffed with more than $20,000 in bills belonged to him found himself in jail Thursday on unrelated matters.

Arthur Jenkins, 27, was arrested shortly after 3 a.m. at his mother-in-law’s Pacoima home and booked on suspicion of beating his wife, Los Angeles police said.

Police said they also found there were three outstanding warrants for Jenkins’ arrest, including a no-bail felony warrant issued March 5 for an alleged probation violation on a conviction for possession of a controlled substance. The two other warrants were for misdemeanor vehicle-related citations.

Police said Jenkins had been questioned about his claim to the briefcase, but Detective Daniel Moran added, “His arrest had nothing to do with the money. At this point we don’t know who it belongs to.”

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Confronted Finder

He was being held by police in the Van Nuys Jail pending arraignment in Municipal Court.

On Wednesday, Jenkins had appeared at a Van Nuys apartment building where a surprised tenant had returned from her late-night job and found the briefcase in her parking space. The woman quickly turned over her find to police, who informed reporters of the incident.

As the tenant, Carolyn Estes, 37, stood outside her apartment Wednesday morning and told the story of her find to several reporters, Jenkins emerged from an elevator and listened as she described the contents of the case, which she said included credit cards, foreign coins and what appeared to be welfare checks along with the cash.

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After listening for several moments, Jenkins interrupted Estes and blurted out that the case was his. He said he had been visiting relatives at the apartment complex and had inadvertently left the case behind when he was loading his car to go home. He had come back to the building to look for it, he said.

Failed to Identify Briefcase

Later that afternoon, Jenkins called police to claim ownership, was told to to go to the station to identify the briefcase, but never showed up, police said.

A department spokesman said that police are investigating whether criminal activity was involved in the lost briefcase but would not give details.

Several people have called to claim the money, but no one has been able to prove ownership beyond a reasonable doubt, police said. If no one proves ownership within three months, Estes will get the money, they said.

When he showed up at Estes’ apartment building, Jenkins told reporters he had planned to use the money to buy video equipment for a Canoga Park store he wanted to open. After answering questions for about 10 minutes, he appeared nervous and drove off.

Before leaving, Jenkins said that he has been trying for a year to start a small business he called World Zodiac Inc. He said he and a partner were unsuccessful in an attempt months ago to manufacture a type of bed that he described a “sexual aid.”

“We were going to do the beds, but it cost a lot of money to get off the ground,” Jenkins said. Instead, he decided to open a video equipment shop at his storefront office.

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A sign over the office that Jenkins said is his place of business reads: “John Anthony Portrait Studio” and is furnished inside with several desks and a couch.

Rosanne Wittkop, the operator of a printing shop next door, said Jenkins had told her of his unsuccessful attempt to manufacture the beds. She said several months ago she had printed “World Zodiac” business cards for Jenkins.

“I’m not sure exactly what kind of business it is,” Wittkop said. “At times there have have been some telephones and VCRs for sale in there. But that’s about it. It’s a quiet office. They are hardly ever there.”


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