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Children of Jamey Noel’s late brother allege fraud in estate case

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Airman 1st Class Joseph Barron
The petition filed earlier this month seeks to reopen the estate of Jamey Noel's late brother.

The children of former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel’s brother are taking court action, alleging he stole from their inheritance.

The children of William “Leon” Noel, brother of former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel, filed a petition earlier this month to reopen their father’s estate. They say they were defrauded out of their full inheritance by their uncle.

The action follows search warrant information released last month as part of the ongoing criminal investigation of Jamey Noel by Indiana State Police.

Court records show he was appointed to oversee his brother’s unsupervised estate in early 2019, following Leon Noel’s death the month before. That included handling claims in the estate, like hospital bills, online court records show.

The petition shows Jamey Noel distributed more than $66,000 to Leon Noel’s kids but, according to the filing, he didn’t give them everything they were due.

Amy Wheatley, the attorney representing the children, told LPM News the family wasn’t aware of any allegations of financial issues with the estate until information from the state police came out last month.

“They had no idea,” she said. “They just assumed … he was their uncle, he was the sheriff, they figured that he was treating them fairly.”

Jamey Noel is not currently facing any charges related to his handling of the estate.

According to the petition filed March 8, Jamey Noel sold his brother’s home on Old Salem Road in April 2019 to his daughter, Kasey Noel, for $180,000, “despite the property being worth significantly more than that,” the petition reads.

On top of that, records show Jamey Noel gifted his daughter $36,000 in equity in the property. Court records show Jamey Noel never repaid that money from the equity gift into the estate account, “thereby depriving the heirs of a part of their rightful inheritance,” it reads.

The following month, Jamey Noel sold a different home on Glenview Heights in New Albany his brother had owned for just under $120,000, depositing the money into the estate account. The petition doesn’t specify how that price compared to market value.

Records show he paid more than $16,000 for repairs on that home. He used the estate account for around half. About $8,200 more came from an account associated with the nonprofit Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, also known as New Chapel EMS.

Noel operated the organization until recently, and records from the state police investigation include allegations he used Utica/New Chapel funds for personal gain.

Leon Noel was previously chief of the Utica department, and cofounded New Chapel.

The petition alleges Jamey Noel also wrote himself a $16,000 check for reimbursement from the estate account “despite not having actually paid for any of that…work.”

Records show he later withdrew more than $52,000 from the estate account, then repaid that from the Utica account the following month.

Wheatley said these back-and-forth transactions make it hard to pinpoint exactly how much money the children were shorted.

“It's very convoluted how the money went in and out of that estate,” she said. “That's going to require a significant amount of discovery and litigation to figure out where this money went, what was spent on what.”

The petition says in October 2019, Jamey Noel filed a verified closing statement attesting that “all assets had been collected, deeded, administered upon, and were ready to be distributed to the heirs.”

It also shows the children never received any paperwork related to the estate or assets.

Later that month, Jamey Noel distributed more than $29,000 to one of Leon Noel’s children. Records show he wrote checks totaling just under $37,000 to the other two children that December, but they bounced. In January 2020, he got cashier’s checks for the two and closed the estate checking account.

A text message to Jamey Noel asking for comment was not immediately returned Monday.

Larry Wilder, one of Jamey Noel’s attorneys in the criminal case, said he’s not representing him in the estate case. Attorney Matthew Jacobs, who was listed in the case when it initially opened in 2019, said he is no longer involved.

The children are asking the court for treble damages, or triple the amount they should have received as inheritance.

Online court records show Judge Nick Karaffa, who presides over the court where the case originated, has recused himself, with the case forwarded for appointment of a special judge.

The recusal is in part because the information in the estate case is also associated with the criminal investigation, which has a special judge. Clark County Court Administrator Tom Lowe said Karaffa also recused himself to avoid "even the appearance of impropriety."

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.