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Former SRJC police officer, wife offered deal in embezzlement case

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 1:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.

A former Santa Rosa Junior College police officer charged with stealing from campus parking meters could be sentenced to nearly six years in prison and his wife would get up to a year in county jail under a pretrial settlement offered by prosecutors.

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Jeff Holzworth and his wife Karen, appear in Sonoma County Superior Court, Wednesday Feb. 20, 2013.

PD FILE, 2013

Twenty-eight year veteran Jeff Holzworth, 51, is charged with embezzling $287,000 while he oversaw parking collections over an eight-year period. His wife, Karen, 49, is accused of being an accessory.

Both appeared in court Wednesday and requested more time to consider the package deal. Each must accept the terms for it to go through, prosecutor Amy Ariyoshi said.

Jeff Holzworth faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted at trial. Through his attorney, he has admitted a role but maintains his wife had no involvement.

They return to court April 3.

Holzworth was arrested in November after a fellow officer reported seeing him with bundles of small bills and collecting money from parking machines while off duty.

He was charged with 12 felonies, including grand theft and receiving stolen property. A search of his house turned up thousands of dollars in coins and currency, as well as gambling notes and receipts from Las Vegas.

Bank officials said Holzworth told them he owned a vending machine business.

His wife was arrested in February. Both are free on bail.

According to campus personnel officials, Holzworth retired from the department Dec. 30, two days before a new law took effect Jan. 1 that requires public employees to forfeit their pension benefits if convicted of crimes in the course of their duties.

However, campus administrators Wednesday denied a report in the SRJC student newspaper, the Oak Leaf, that they were tipped to the theft in 2010 and told then-Chief Christopher Wilkinson not to pursue it.

Wilkinson told the newspaper that he reported his suspicions about Holzworth to Doug Roberts, vice president of business services. Roberts told him to leave Holzworth alone "if you like being employed here," according to Wilkinson.

Roberts said Wednesday there was no truth to the story.

"It never happened," Roberts said. "I don't recall any conversation related to that."

Wilkinson, who resigned in 2011 after six months on the job and is now police chief at Saddleback College in Orange County, did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment.

Campus officials said the parking meter thefts were made possible in part by the collection system, which placed oversight duties with one person -- Holzworth. Also, the machines did not record fees in a centralized location that could be easily audited.

The school is changing that. Roberts said collections are now handled by two people and a search is ongoing for new collections equipment. He could not say how much the new procedures and machines will cost.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com.

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