Fresno County officials accused of stealing $250,000 worth of property from the dead

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- State investigators say employees at the Fresno County Public Administrator's office carried out a scheme to steal from the dead.

It's estimated a quarter of a million dollars worth of property was taken over a five-year period.

The alleged mastermind - Noe Jimenez - has already pleaded to the crime and a sentence of 6 years in prison.

The preliminary hearing wrapped up on Thursday for alleged co-conspirators - including Jimenez's assistant Susan Nesbitt.

The scam was laid out by prosecutors over the past three days - it involved pawn shops, false heirs and a lot of money.

Susan Nesbitt was a longtime worker at the Fresno County Public Administrator's Office, but it's alleged she was a central part of a group who went to great lengths to rip off the dead. Prosecutors say she got her nephew William Stoutingburg Junior involved and also a family friend Terrance Ward.

Attorney Chuck Magill is representing Nesbitt.

"It appeared as though Mr. Jimenez and some of his coworkers, whenever they would come up upon an estate they would- if there were valuables - they would take they would pawn or sell (butt to) and not list them within the estates," says Magill.

Inventory lists never included the stolen items. Some of the cars taken were sold to auction companies.

The internal theft investigation began in 2015 after an email was sent to the District Attorney's office from the estranged wife of one of the co-defendants, Ree Bruce. She said her soon to be ex-husband had brought home all kinds of stolen items before they split up.

Retired DA investigator Daniel Jenkins says the tip initiated the deep dive into records and uncovered the scam.

Among the documents recovered were receipts from pawn shops. One receipt for several gold items shows Nesbitt was paid nearly $9,000.

Investigators say Stoutingburg was hired to clean the estates but received checks for many homes he never stepped foot in.

Prosecutors say Ward was a false heir who received payouts from estates of people he never knew.

On Thursday afternoon, all three were held to answer on the charges.

If she is found guilty, Nesbitt could face up to 11 years in state prison.

She will also have to forfeit part of her pension.
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