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Errors postpone tree service scam case

February 16, 2011 - Accused of embezzling money from a vulnerable adult, Lonnie Wade Jenkins was summoned to a preliminary hearing in 52-3 District Court.

But soon after the arrival of the alleged victim, a 86 year-old Lake Orion woman, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, the charge was dropped and Jenkins released.

According to Chief Assistant Prosecutor for Oakland County, Paul Walton, an error postponed any possible trial.

Lake Orion Police detained and brought the wrong man to the preliminary exam.

"The charges aren't dismissed, but the Lake Orion Police, by bringing in the wrong person, made a mistake," said Walton. "The charges must be filed again against the right Lonnie Jenkins, and then a new preliminary exam will be held.

"The suspect is not getting a free pass, it's just a matter of bringing the right person to court."

The Review previously reported on the Jenkins case Feb. 2, reporting that he was accused of taking a large sum of money from an elderly woman for tree work that was not required. The error arose because the similarity between Jenkins's name and that of his son - Lonnie Duane Jenkins, 25.

According to Walton, when the alleged victim of Duane Jenkins's crime entered the preliminary exam, she claimed that the Jenkins sitting at the defendant's table was not the man she had dealt with.

Wade Jenkins's lawyer, Paul Stablein of Royal Oak, called the charges against his client an overreaction.

"The way I see this case is that it's really just the government going overboard in trying to take what is a private contact between two adults and making it into a crime," said Stablein. "Jenkins is clearly not guilty for a number of different reasons.

"One - the last time I checked, we have a free enterprise system, and people can charge what the market will bear for the services they provide, and two - the work was dangerous."

Lake Orion Police Chief said new information had widened the case which was still under investigation.

However, if charges are filed against Duane Jenkins, they will not be immediately gratified as he is currently facing a different, albeit similar set of charges in Lapeer County.

The case in Lapeer is being headed by Corporal Frank Panette of the Metamora Police Department.

Cailin Wilson, the Assistant Prosecutor for Lapeer County, said Duane Jenkins was charged with embezzlement from an adult of an amount over $20,000 and larceny by false pretenses of an amount over $20,000. The two felonies are punishable by either a maximum of 10 years in prison, or a fine of either $15,000 or three times the money involved.

In the Lapeer-based case, Duane Jenkins allegedly attempted to obtain more than $100,000 from a 88-year-old single woman living in the Metamora area.

"He told her he had a large check coming from the state of Michigan, and used this allegation to attempt to get a loan from the woman," said Wilson. "He promised to pay the loan back with a substantial amount of interest."

The Lapeer-based case is currently set for a jury trial on Tuesday, Mar. 8.

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