Investigator hired in W/J Ranch case
An investigator has been hired to look into charges that a local housing official at one time violated the very rules she was hired to enforce.
Pitkin County Attorney John Ely confirmed Thursday that he had hired a private investigator from Denver to conduct a probe into the allegation that Stefanie Levesque received a “kickback” from former W/J Ranch owner John Musick.
Ely would not identify the investigator, but said he will be paid $90 to $100 per hour, depending on what kind of staffing is required to do the work.
He said the investigator normally works with “one other operative, or whatever they call these guys,” and that taxpayers will foot the bill for any travel and lodging costs incurred in trips to and from Aspen.
“He’s already started looking at stuff,” Ely said, explaining that the investigator has been given some documents turned in to the county by former W/J Ranch employee David Schoenberger.
Schoenberger has accused Levesque, currently on administrative leave, of accepting $17,000 when she and her husband, Michael, bought a home at W/J. He has claimed that the payment came from Musick as part of a scheme to inflate the apparent value of the homes, and the overall ranch.
The Levesques have countered that the $17,000 payment was for work that Michael Levesque did for Musick.
Schoenberger first brought his accusations to the housing office in late 1998, and officials have spent the intervening time trying to figure out how to conduct the investigation.
Sources within county government have said the probe will likely include more than just the Levesque home purchase, and that Schoenberger himself is under scrutiny. Documents obtained by The Aspen Times indicate Schoenberger was paid as much as $150,000 to negotiate home sales on behalf of Musick and the home buyers.
Ely said there is no cap on the amount of money that might be spent on the investigation, nor a limit on how much time it will take.
“I hope that it’s done sooner than later,” he said, adding that the housing board will be kept apprised of the status of the probe as it moves forward.
He also said the investigator has worked with district attorneys across the state, as well as the Colorado Attorney General’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“He can evaluate material, and then be able to put it together and take it to other people for any other decisions that have to be made” about possible criminal charges, Ely said.
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