A former Orleans Parish School Board member was arrested Monday after investigators found an iPad and other property stolen from the State Capitol at his home, State Police said.
James “Jimmy” Fahrenholtz, 65, a retired attorney who served on the School Board for eight years in the early 2000s, was accused of stealing a briefcase containing the iPad, a keyboard and “government related documents” from the Capitol on April 22, according to a State Police report.
The briefcase, described in the report as a “brown leather expandable folder,” belongs to Jim Nickel, a Baton Rouge-based lobbyist and former chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, according to arrest reports.
Nickel, who declined to comment Tuesday on the matter because of the ongoing investigation, reported his case missing on the evening of April 22. Nickel told investigators he set the case on a table near the “time capsule” inside the Capitol’s main lobby before later realizing his items were missing, an arrest report says.
Using GPS technology, detectives tracked the location of Nickel’s missing iPad to an Ursulines Avenue home in New Orleans. About 9:45 p.m., the same day the items were reported missing, Fahrenholtz greeted state troopers at his door and invited them into his kitchen, the report says.
As soon as troopers entered his home, the briefcase — emblazoned with “JWN” initials — was clearly visible, the report says.
After being advised of his rights, Fahrenholtz agreed to speak with troopers. He told them he was working earlier in the day as a lobbyist at the Capitol, where he set up a table with “sandwiches, various documents, pens and soft drinks,” the report says, and it wasn’t until he returned home that he noticed he “accidentally picked up the folder while gathering his things from the table.”
When asked specifically about the iPad, the report says, Fahrenholtz initially denied knowing of its existence. Investigators then secured a search warrant for his home and soon located the iPad underwater in a backyard “concrete pond.” When troopers spoke to him again, Fahrenholtz said “he had inadvertently taken the property from the State Capitol building,” the report says.
“After arriving home, he had learned law enforcement was conducting an investigation into the missing property and were actively looking for it,” the report says. “Knowing the property was not his, he destroyed the iPad by submerging it underwater in his pond and hid it from authorities.”
Fahrenholtz told troopers he destroyed the iPad “because he believed if he was caught with it, no one would believe that he did not steal it,” the report says.
Fahrenholtz, who identified himself to troopers as a lobbyist but is not registered as a lobbyist with the state, also said he “could not explain” why he kept the briefcase with the government documents inside it.
Fahrenholtz was booked Monday into Orleans Parish Prison on counts of possession of stolen property and obstruction of justice. He then was taken Tuesday to the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, where he was booked on a count of felony theft, said Sgt. Nick Manale, a State Police spokesman.
He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Advocate staff writer Will Sentell contributed reporting to this story.