Burned house among assets government hoped to obtain

Federal officials had hoped to obtain the house that burned down Sunday morning as they pursued fraud and money-laundering convictions against the owner.

Michael Jenkins and another man are awaiting trial in Las Vegas. Federal officials said the two men, and a third who is scheduled to plead guilty next month, schemed to defraud three
investors of $32 million.

The house at 1138 Sundial Road, north of Fruita, and another at 461 N. 22nd St., were listed among assets to be made forfeit to the federal government, should Jenkins be found guilty.
Federal officials then hoped to return the seized properties to victims of the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas.

Officials said the fire looked to be arson, but said they might not be able to nail down much more.

Fire investigators on Monday did a “systematic removal” of materials from the remains of the house, said Doug Lucas, investigations coordinator for the Grand Junction Fire Department, which was called in to assist the Lower Valley Fire Protection District.

“The fire burned so long and so hot that there is very little left” that could help investigators
learn about its cause or origin, Lucas said. “There’s just so little to work with.”

Jenkins remains free on bond and is employed in Memphis, Tenn., as an “in-house business expert,” according to court papers.

He had been free to travel to any of the contiguous 48 states with the permission of federal officials, but last year was allowed to travel without seeking permission to Arkansas, Alabama and Georgia.

He previously had been allowed to travel without restrictions only in Tennessee and Mississippi.

In addition to the federal case pending against him, Jenkins is appealing a misdemeanor tampering conviction from Mesa County court.

Jenkins was arrested last May after a federal grand jury handed up an indictment against him and two other defendants.

He, Daniel Ellis, 54, of Ontario, Canada, and Gary Colombo, 51, of Las Vegas were operating a scheme in which they promised a 10,000 percent return on investment.

Instead of investing the money, the defendants used the funds for other purposes, including loans or payments to the defendants, personal expenses, and acquisition of personal assets, including the Grand Valley houses.

The defendants face conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges.

Ellis is suffering from cancer and is scheduled to plead guilty and be sentenced March 31.


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