A Virginia sheriff traveled first class to pick up fugitives out of state, including trips to Las Vegas and San Diego, the News4 I-Team found.
The I-Team started looking into the travel of Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins after hearing complaints from multiple deputies about how the department was being run. When the I-Team asked if it seemed odd for the sheriff to be going on extradition trips, one of the deputies responded, “Yeah, I think 'odd' is a good word."
The deputies asked for their identities to be kept hidden, because they still work in law enforcement in other jurisdictions.
When the I-Team first requested travel records for Jenkins from the sheriff's office, they said, "We do not have any records specific to the sheriff’s travel. His travel does not require approval." Only after pushing for any extradition trips did the I-Team get travel expense reimbursement vouchers for Las Vegas and San Diego.
Almost $3,500 was spent by Jenkins and another employee, Vanessa Blackstock, to pick up a man in Vegas wanted for grand larceny in August 2015. They each had a room for three nights at the MGM Grand Hotel. They also traveled to San Diego to pick up a woman on forgery charges in December of that year, spending $4,427. They stayed at the Omni Hotel and Resort.
The county was reimbursed for those trips by Virginia’s Supreme Court, which pays for approved extraditions. The I-Team got copies of extradition trips by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office over two years and noticed the first-class flights. The I-Team asked a deputy if flying first class for an extradition is normal, and he responded, “Oh, absolutely not. We would fly regular coach there."
State records obtained by the I-Team show both Jenkins and Blackstock spent a combined $1,300 to fly first class one way to Vegas and $1,200 one way to San Diego. They were the only two county employees we found in the records flying first class. Two other Culpeper deputies who traveled on the same California trip to pick up a second fugitive both flew coach.
A spokesperson for the Virginia Supreme Court told the I-Team first-class flights require prior approval for extraditions. The state is reviewing its internal processes to see why the first-class flights were not flagged.
For months, the I-Team tried to talk to the sheriff about his travel, but a spokesperson said he did not want to appear on camera. The I-Team also stopped by his office and a Halloween event sponsored by his department, but when Jenkins saw the I-Team, he drove away.
County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Frazier told the I-Team, “If there was any discrepancies or anything going on with the sheriff, we'd know about it." When asked about the first class flights, Frazier said, “The county is not paying for that." The I-Team pushed further, asking if that made it OK. Frazier responded, “As long as the county is not paying for it, it does."
Jenkins did answer questions emailed by the I-Team, saying he had been on five out of 105 extraditions, something he said previous sheriffs in Culpeper had done. He also said he was aware of other Virginia sheriffs going on extraditions. The I-Team contacted eight different county sheriff departments in our area including Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Stafford, Clarke, Orange and Montgomery. All said the sheriff had not been on extraditions.
In his written response, Jenkins said he considered extraditions “just another aspect of the office in which I participate.” He said he went on the trips "in large part to see how other larger jurisdictions operated" and added that, at the time, the department was shorthanded for road deputies and because a number of personnel had been pulled from duty for a trial.
As for those first class flights, he said, ”No, I did not seek prior approval for my travel arrangements. In the past, the Supreme Court has reimbursed first class airfare for me. Anyone who has flown knows the size of airline seats. I am a big man. I need a big seat.” State records show Jenkins did fly coach on the return flights with the prisoners.
One of the deputies who talked to the I-Team said people in the department knew about the trips but added, "We weren't really allowed to talk about it openly.”
Jenkins said in his response “that many times, the costs of extradition are paid by the prisoner through court costs” and that “it is misleading to suggest otherwise.” Virginia law does provide for reimbursement of costs by those found guilty. But state Virginia Supreme Court said it has not received repayments for the Vegas or San Diego trips.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.