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Neither Finder, Loser Is Keeper

Times Staff Writer

The discovery of a briefcase stuffed with more than $20,000 in a Van Nuys parking lot last month has proven to be a bad experience for both the man who lost the money and the woman who found it.

The only beneficiary will be the Internal Revenue Service, which will get the $20,632 in cash, Los Angeles police said Wednesday.

Police said they had confirmed that the money and briefcase belonged to Arthur Dewayne Jenkins, a 27-year-old Pacoima resident who had claimed the money was his. But the IRS found that Jenkins had not paid taxes in four years and owed $21,435 in back taxes, Detective Dave Peery said.

Police also discovered an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Jenkins alleging that he violated terms of his probation on a 1982 narcotics possession conviction. As a result, Jenkins is in Los Angeles County Jail.

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Aftermath Rough for Finder

The aftermath of the incident has not been pleasant either for Carolyn Estes, 37, who found the briefcase early on the morning of May 29 in the parking area of her Van Nuys apartment building. Estes said she recently decided to move because she has been plagued by telephone calls asking about the money, and because of the theft of her car last week, an event she decided was related to the case.

“You do the right thing and you pay for it,” she concluded.

When Estes found the briefcase, filled mostly with $20, $50 and $100 bills, she immediately reported the find to police. They said the money would probably become hers if no one claimed it within 90 days.

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As Estes told her story to a group of reporters gathered at her apartment complex later that day, Jenkins stepped forward and announced that the money was his. He said he accidentally left the case behind when he went to visit relatives at the complex.

Police said Jenkins also telephoned them to ask for the money, which he said he intended to use to open a video equipment store. Detectives told him he would have to make his claim in person at the police station, Peery said.

Jenkins never made it. Instead, in a seemingly unrelated incident, police were called at 3 a.m. the next morning to the Pacoima home of Jenkins’ mother-in-law, where he was arrested on suspicion of wife-beating.

That charge was later dropped, but Jenkins was kept in custody on the no-bail warrant for parole violation, Peery said. Court records show that Jenkins pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance in 1982 and received a 45-day jail sentence and three years probation.

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6 Search Warrants Served on Home

Police would not say what Jenkins allegedly did to violate probation. But court records show that the home address he listed has been served with six police search warrants since March, 1984. Although police confiscated small quantities of cocaine and other drugs in those raids, Jenkins himself was not arrested, Peery said.

Police said identification found inside the briefcase corroborated Jenkins’ claim that he was the owner.

IRS spokesman Robert Giannangeli said police had already turned the money over to the tax agency, which will deposit it in the Department of Treasury general fund.

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The IRS claims Jenkins owes $21,435 in taxes for the last four years, Giannangeli said. He would not say how that figure was arrived at.

Jenkins could not be reached for comment. A hearing on his alleged probation violation is scheduled Monday in Van Nuys Superior Court.

Estes said that the last few weeks had been “very traumatic” for her.

Convinced Theft Related

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She said she is convinced that the theft of her car, which was found by police several days later, minus its seats and tires, was somehow tied to her having found the briefcase.

Peery said police do not believe the car theft is connected to the briefcase case, but that Van Nuys division officers have been advised of the situation as a precaution.

Estes said she is planning to move anyway. “I feel I just want to leave this in the past,” she said.


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