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Murrieta Official Accused of Extortion in Divorce

Councilman is held after allegedly having a contractor file a false lien against his house.

January 11, 2006|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Murrieta City Councilman Warnie Enochs was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of extortion and forgery after falsifying a lien against his house to cheat his wife in a divorce settlement, according to the Riverside County district attorney's office.

Prosecutors allege that between September 2002 and February 2005, Enochs, 56, committed conspiracy, forgery, extortion and subornation of perjury by persuading a man to record a false $48,000 roofing contract for work at his Murrieta home. That debt was included in the councilman's proposed 2004 divorce settlement with his wife, Julia Enochs, according to the criminal complaint.

Enochs did not return telephone messages left at his home and office. Julia Enochs declined to comment about the case or the arrest. The couple's divorce case is pending.

Warnie Enochs, a longtime Murrieta Valley resident who has served on the council since 1995, ascended to mayor last year after Jack van Haaster was ousted in a recall election. Two council colleagues survived that vote.

City spokesman Al Vollbrecht said city employees were "surprised" by news of Enochs' arrest.

"We had no idea an investigation was ongoing, but the contentiousness of his divorce was no secret in the community," Vollbrecht said. "There was a lot of gossip he has relayed to people in this building about it, and she talks to people who work here too."

Enochs was released from the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on $20,000 bail and was scheduled to be arraigned in Riverside County Superior Court on Thursday. If convicted of all counts, Enochs faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison.

In a five-page complaint, prosecutors allege Enochs and a man identified only as Dan Williams drafted a false invoice and contract to show $48,000 in roofing work done at the Enochses' home.

Then, prosecutors say, Williams recorded a lien for $48,000 with the county recorder. Williams then filed a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien.

The councilman also is accused of extorting "money and other property from Dan Williams by means of a wrongful use of force and fear," the complaint said. The district attorney's office declined to release more details about those allegations.

On Jan. 15, 2004, the complaint alleges, Enochs sent his wife a proposed divorce settlement "based on the urgency created by the filing" of the civil lawsuit. On July 13, 2004, "Warnie Enochs submitted a copy of the complaint [from the civil lawsuit] as part of a sworn declaration filed in his divorce action," the complaint states.

Vollbrecht said it was uncertain how the council would respond to the arrest.

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