Punishment for 'mastermind' closes book on stealing from the dead scandal

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The day of accounting arrived Wednesday for the alleged mastermind of a plot where Fresno County employees stole from the dead, closing the book on an embarrassing scandal for the county.

A Fresno County sheriff's deputy handcuffed former Fresno County public administrator employee Noe Jimenez Wednesday and led him off to jail.

Prosecutors say Jimenez led a group of five county employees and five other people who stole cash and valuables from the estates of people who passed away.

"The People have calculated that restitution owed by Mr. Jimenez in this case is over $300,000," said deputy California Attorney General Tiffany Susz, who prosecuted the case.

Jimenez earned a government salary of less than $40,000, but when investigators ransacked his house, they found 30 diamonds and other jewels.

He had six cars registered in his name, and police found evidence of lavish vacations.

Jimenez also admitted to pawning stolen property and using the cash to pay for prostitutes.

"The conduct you engaged it was a substantial violation of the public trust," said Judge Jonathan Skiles.

Investigators found similar evidence pointing to co-worker Susan Nesbitt.

When the time came for a judge to punish Jimenez for eight felonies, including embezzlement, his attorney said corruption had enveloped the public administrator's office before Jimenez started the job.

"My client was first employed when Ms. Nesbitt was already there," said defense attorney Dan Bacon. "This situation of taking money from deceased people was started long before he worked there."

The judge sentenced Jimenez to three years in jail a month after sending Nesbitt to prison for more than five years.

With good behavior, Jimenez could get out of jail within 18 months. He'll still have to serve a year of mandatory supervision after that.
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