New hearing set in Tioga embezzlement case

09/27/2013 8:25 PM

09/27/2013 8:27 PM

The case against a former apartment manager charged with stealing more than $40,000 from a property management company moved forward this week in Merced County Superior Court.

James M. Hiestand, 50, pleaded not guilty to a single felony count of embezzlement in connection with the alleged theft from Manco Abbott Real Estate, a Fresno-based real estate company that was managing the Tioga Hotel Apartments in Merced during the time in question.

If convicted, Hiestand faces up to three years in the county jail.

The case was heard briefly earlier this week and retired Judge Edward M. Lacy Jr. ordered both sides to return Oct. 10, according to the court clerk’s office.

“At this point, there have been no formal discussions of resolutions in the case,” said Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall, responding to a question about plea bargaining.

A former Manco employee, Hiestand was the apartment superintendent and is accused of pocketing rent payments and doctoring ledgers to support a “gambling addiction,” according to court documents.

A Merced Police Department report says the management company accused Hiestand of embezzling $41,848.96 between June 10, 2011 and Feb. 22 of this year.

Hiestand declined comment on Friday when contacted by telephone.

Police said Hiestand falsely listed certain apartments as vacant and kept tenants’ rent money. During the same period, police said, Hiestand secretly sublet his own unit at the complex and was building a new apartment for himself on the building’s mezzanine level.

According to the police report, Hiestand admitted taking money but disputes the amount, which he puts at about $15,000. Defense attorney Logan McKechnie told investigators that Hiestand’s estimate would “offset some expenditures of his own money...”

Issues at the Tioga Hotel Apartments came to light earlier this year when a Manco bookkeeper noticed numerous financial discrepancies in tenant payment records, police said.

Manco Abbott ended its contract with the owners of the apartment complex, Tioga Investors LLC, on Sept. 7, according to Manco Vice President Adam Goldfarb.

BLR Commercial Real Estate of Stockton now manages the apartment complex in the 1700 block of N Street in Merced.

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