Pahranagat Valley coach to plead not guilty to theft charges

Criminal felony complaint charges of theft of nearly $123,000 were filed April 10 by the District Attorney’s office in Meadow Valley Justice Court against Ken Higbee of Alamo. Higbee has served as principal at C.O. Bastian High School in Caliente and as the long-time varsity football coach at Pahranagat Valley High School.

Higbee’s attorney, Bret Whipple of Las Vegas, said his client will plead not guilty to the charges, “because he never put a dime in his own pocket.”

Whipple added the intent was to help Lincoln County School District kids. “The only thing he is guilty of is of trying to make his high school football team successful and have the uniforms and proper equipment to complete on a national level.”

Whipple alluded to the fact that during Higbee’s tenure as coach at Pahranagat Valley, they were one of the most successful 8-man team programs in the nation.

“If any items were transferred,” Whipple said, “they were transferred to the football team so that they could be successful, have the uniforms and equipment that they needed to compete on a national level. If he is guilty of anything, it is of trying to make a nationally recognized football team for Pahranagat Valley.”

Whipple said Lincoln County High School programs also benefited from Higbee’s efforts.

The charges, involving some 225 counts, claim that between January 2012 and December 2015, Higbee “knowingly and without lawful authority did: take control of property at C.O. Bastian High School (COBHS), the Lincoln County School District, or the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services with the intent to deprive those organizations of the property; did knowingly and without lawful authority convert, make an unauthorized transfer of an interest in, or without authorization take control of property belonging to COBHS, the School District, or Child and Family Services, or use property those organizations entrusted to him or placed in his possession for a limited use, OR obtain property of COBHS, the School District, or Child and Family Services by a material misrepresentation with intent to deprive those organizations of such property.”

The complaint continues, “Specifically, the School District and Child and Family Services entrusted the defendant, as principal of COBHS, with a debit card and checkbook from the Pahranagat Valley Federal Credit Union and credit card from American Express to spend for the benefits of the student of COBHS, but the Defendant used those cards and checks to take control of, convert, or embezzle COBHS funds with the intent to deprive the students, COBHS, the school district, and Child and Family Services of those funds…”

The charges stated the value of the property or services involved is “approximately $122,788.82.”

In addition, but also in connection, the District Attorney’s office filed charges against Deanna L. Jenkins of Alamo, alleging that between January 2012 and December 2015 while serving as a secretary at COBHS, Jenkins “knowingly falsified the account (used by Higbee) or made false entries into the account regarding money spent or property received OR fraudulently altered, falsified or concealed records in the account.” Specifically, that she “knowingly and fraudulently submitted for reimbursement falsified invoices for Pro Look Sports, Badger Screen Printing, Sportco Sporting Goods, American Stitch, and other vendors to conceal improper expenditures.” A total of 150 counts are listed against Jenkins.

Hooge said the investigation, which took over a year by the Nevada Division of Investigation, produced “a lot of evidence.”

In September of last year,  a crowd of Pahranagat Valley residents attended a Lincoln County School District board meeting to show support for Higbee during an over hour-long public comment period. Community members criticized the way the investigation process has been handled, how long it has taken, as well as the lack of communication from the school district and other local officials.

 

Hooge said both Higbee and Jenkins will likely appear for a preliminary hearing April 25, then an arraignment date to enter a plea would be scheduled.

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