Rural GJ home linked to alleged fraud scheme
A Sunday fire that destroyed a rural Grand Junction house may have been deliberately set, and that wouldn’t surprise at least one neighbor.
Mary Graves said neighbors felt the vacant house at 1138 Sundial Road “was becoming a criminal haven” because weekend parties on the property and visits by unfamiliar faces had increased in recent months.
Graves lives on Sundial Road, a quiet, dead-end street near 24 and K roads where large homes sit on acres of agricultural land.
“It’s been a problem house,” said Frank Cavaliere, Lower Valley Fire Protection District chief, who added that he had conversations Sunday morning with other law enforcement officials about the property’s background.
Arson investigators with Lower Valley and the Grand Junction Fire Department roped off the property Sunday morning while they look into what caused the house to burn to the ground.
Cavaliere said the fire is “suspicious” because the house was empty and all utilities had been turned off.
Two people, Michael Jenkins and D.J. White, are listed as the owners of 1138 Sundial Road, according to the Mesa County Assessor.
Neither lives at the home, Graves said. In fact, it has been more than a year since she has seen either Jenkins or White.
On April 24, 2007, Jenkins was indicted for his role in an alleged $32 million fraud scheme, Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator John Harrison, said in January 2008.
Jenkins has pleaded not guilty in the case. Among the accusations is that he used money from the scheme to purchase the Sundial Road property.
Cavaliere said the house is in foreclosure. The property also is accessible via a dirt canal road off 24 Road.
On a walk with her husband and dogs four or five months ago, Graves said she stopped at 1138 Sundial Road to take a look around.
She said she noticed a large boot print on the front door and that back windows had been removed. It appeared as if a bar area inside the home had been trashed, she said.
A dirt bike track White and Jenkins built when one or both lived there began attracting more and more people, Graves said. In late January, there was an all-night party with dirt bikes.
Neighbors called the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Graves said.
The crowd that seemed to hang out at the home wasn’t teenagers looking to party. It was an older crowd, Graves said.
Earlier this month, Graves said she was opening the gate to her property when a truck filled with couches drove past her house and went to 1138 Sundial Road. Other neighbors saw the same truck. A group called the Sheriff’s Department.
The Sheriff’s Department came to investigate, Graves said, but she did not know for certain what came of the incident.
Members of the Sheriff’s Department were on scene Sunday while firefighters with Lower Valley spent four hours putting the blaze out. The firefighters had limited water access, Cavaliere said. By the time they arrived on scene, the house was fully engulfed, he added.
The home was a total loss, but Cavaliere said he did not know what the estimated damage was because he had no idea what was in the home.
“You can tell the house was vacant,” he said. “I have no idea what the house was worth. It’s a very nice area. At one time, it was a very nice house.”
He said no one was injured in the blaze, and no one was inside the house when firefighters arrived.
As investigators continue to look into what caused the fire at 1138 Sundial Road, neighbors will continue to keep their eyes open.
The few encounters Graves had with White and Jenkins left her feeling uneasy, she said, including a confrontation Graves had with White when she went to collect an irrigation check from White in January 2005. Graves is unofficially in charge of group expenses for the agricultural subdivision.
“She was hostile,” Graves said. “I knew something was wrong when I tried to collect that irrigation check. From the time they moved in, it was a problem.”