Carroll man claims friend duped him into scheme
January 28, 2014
A former Carroll County juvenile court officer accused of a blackmail scheme that sought $55,555 from a Sac County farmer last year was betrayed by a former best friend who tricked him into participating in the scheme, his attorney alleged this morning at the man's trial.
Andrew Menken "thought they were going to watch a wrestling match," Menken's attorney Charles Schulte, of Sac City, said in his opening remarks of Menken's felony extortion trial this morning.
Schulte alleged that Menken met friend Jason Heffelmeier in Ames on that April day to hang out at a bar, but that Heffelmeier eventually drove him to a Boone park where Heffelmeier planned to retrieve a payment from the farmer.
"This is really the first time that Andy gets any indication that there is a plot afoot to extort (farmer) Randy Aschinger," Schulte said.
Menken, 37, is one of three accused of a blackmail scheme. His alleged co-conspirators - Elizabeth Aschinger, 24, and Heffelmeier - have admitted to blackmailing the man, who is Elizabeth Aschinger's father-in-law, by threatening to reveal that the two had an affair that went on for years.
Aschinger and Heffelmeier have both implicated Menken in the scheme and were expected to testify against him at trial today or Wednesday as part of plea agreements in which they pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to commit extortion. They received deferred judgments.
It's unclear whether a similar offer was made to Menken, who has maintained his innocence in several emails to the Daily Times Herald.
Sac County Attorney Ben Smith, who is prosecuting the case, said Menken acted as a middle-man between Elizabeth Aschinger, who provided the information and cellphone number for her father-in-law, and Heffelmeier, who made threatening phone calls and sent text messages with payment instructions to the farmer.
"You're going to see a pattern of this," Smith said in his opening remarks. "The daughter-in-law and Jason Heffelmeier will testify they barely knew one another."
Menken is charged with three felonies for conspiracy to commit extortion, extortion and theft. All three are punishable by up to five years in prison.
Jury selection consumed much of the court proceedings this morning, and few potential jurors acknowledged that they had read or heard about the case before today. Twelve jurors were chosen to decide the case.
Witnesses expected to testify include the Aschingers, Heffelmeier, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure and Menken.
The trial is expected to last about a day.
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