By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Investigations against Ben Angove and the two women accused of blackmailing him have apparently been lost after being transferred to the California Attorney General's Office.
Information officer Halley Jordan of the Department of Justice said no file on Angove or associated cases can be found at the office, despite being turned over to the agency in 2001.
The case was handed to the attorney general in October 2001 when former District Attorney Robert Drossel said there would be a conflict of interest for him to handle the case. During the initial investigation in 2001, few details were released to the public.
According to records and reports at the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office, Angove served as the county's chief administrative officer until his resignation in September 2001. He was originally investigated by the Sheriff's Department after Bobbie Hibshman and Kristine Rathbone accused him of plying them with strong drinks, having sex with one of them while she was unconscious and threatening both of them to remain silent about the incident.
Angove, who was never arrested in the case, admitted having consentual sexual relations with the women and supplying alcohol to Hibshman, who was 18 years old at the time. He denied all other allegations, the reports say.
Both women were later arrested when Angove provided detectives with an alleged extortion note from them that demanded $2,000 from him for their silence.
"It was an investigation the sheriff's office did not enjoy undertaking," said Capt. Doug Plack. "There was no doubt there was some extortion going on ... it was embarrassing for everyone concerned."
Angove never publicly commented on the matter. He resigned his position with the county and left town once the two women became the focus of the investigation. When contacted last Monday, Angove declined comment.
According to law enforcement interviews with Hibshman and Rathbone, who are identified in police records as Jane Doe No. 1 and Jane Doe No. 2, Angove became friendly with the women early in 2001. His relationship with them became more intimate over the course of the next couple of months.
While at Angove's Lake Earl Drive home one night and after watching transvestite' video tapes, according to the report, the women accused him of having intercourse and fondling one of the women while she was unconscious.
During interviews with detectives, Angove accused the women of setting him up for blackmail with his wife. He claimed he had a three-way sexual relationship with the women, but they began talking about revealing their relationship to Angove's wife, at which time he ended the affair. This is when he said he received the extortion letter.
"This is going to be the end of life as I know it," Angove told Detective Pat Martin. When Martin asked Angove to submit to a polygraph test, he declined.
"If that (extortion) letter did not pop up, he was going to be arrested," Plack said. "No one is above the law. But at that point the investigation took off in a new direction. We owed it to Mr. Angove as well as everyone else involved to follow everything up."
The women later claimed the extortion letter they wrote, which was reportedly used as "therapy" for them, was never sent to Angove and was somehow removed from one of their residences.
Charges against the women were later dropped and the whole case was submitted to the Attorney General's Office. Drossel said he would have had trouble handling the case because he reported directly to Angove regarding budget matters. District Attorney Mike Riese said there was evidence to prosecute Angove for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
"It was a long, involved investigation on the part of the Sheriff's Department," said Plack. "We still hold the case we gave the AG was thorough and complete."