File photo of a Corvette parked outside the county coroner’s office in July that matched the description of one sold to a sheriff’s deputy from the estate of Fred Hawkins.


Investigators with the state Attorney General’s office have begun their inquiry into the practices of Humboldt County Coroner/Public Administrator, having taken over the investigation from District Attorney Maggie Fleming. And they’re inviting people with relevant information to contact them.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, which incorporated the Coroner/Public Administrator’s Office back in February 2015, has been conducting its own internal investigation into allegations that over the course of at least the past five years deputies have been allowed to purchase items from the estates of recently deceased people — estates being managed by the Coroner/Public Administrator.

Earlier today, Deputy Sheriff Fred Flores, who has been leading the internal investigation, contacted the Outpost via email, asking us to inform the public as follows: Anyone with information pertaining to the investigation should contact the California Attorney General’s Office’s Public Inquiry Unit at (916) 210-6276 or toll free at (800) 952-5225.

Or, if you want to fax them like it’s 1999, for some reason, that number is (916) 323-5341.

This investigation began following an Outpost inquiry and subsequent investigation, which eventually revealed that deputies and their spouses and friends had purchased cars, trucks, electronics, furniture, appliances, guns and more from the estates of the recently deceased. Such purchases are considered misdemeanors under state law.

Late last month Sheriff William Honsal — who officially is also the county coroner and public administrator, having taken over those positions from former Sheriff Mike Downey in May — told the Outpost via email that the Department of Justice had begun its investigation, which could take a while, he noted:

Over the course of the next several months they will be gathering the necessary facts to conduct the investigation. They are in the process of conducting interviews and going over the evidence. As a part of that process they are scheduling a time in November to scan the estate files and other [Public Administrator] documents for the investigation. 

The Outpost reached out to the Attorney General’s office several times in recent months. Our most recent request for information was answered with this evasive message via email:

Thank you for your inquiry.

To protect its integrity, we can’t comment on a potential or ongoing investigation.


-Press Office