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Former SRJC police officer accused in embezzlement admits responsibility

  • Jeff Holzworth and his wife Karen leave Sonoma County Superior Court, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

A former Santa Rosa Junior College police officer accused of stealing nearly $300,000 from campus parking meters has admitted responsibility for the thefts but disagrees with prosecutors over the amount stolen, his attorney said Wednesday.

Jeffrey Holzworth, 51, of Santa Rosa, also denied any involvement from his wife, Karen Holzworth, 49, who is accused of being an accessory for allegedly exchanging the currency at banks.

"Mr. Holzworth has accepted responsibility at the earliest stage possible," his attorney, Joe Passalacqua, said Wednesday after a brief courtroom appearance by the couple. "The question is the amount of money taken. We need further discovery to find the amount."

He added: "He's adamant that his wife had no involvement."

The husband and wife stood away from reporters as Passalacqua talked. Karen Holzworth's attorney, George Bousseau, declined to comment.

Prosecutor Amy Ariyoshi confirmed Jeffrey Holzworth gave statements to police around the time of his arrest that could be construed as an admission. She said there is evidence that his wife played an active role, too.

Ariyoshi said the amount -- $287,000 over an eight-year period -- covers "just what could be proven in court," suggesting Holzworth might have taken more.

The 28-year campus officer was arrested in November after a co-worker reported he appeared to be stealing money from parking machines. Police said Holzworth was seen emptying a machine while he was off-duty before traveling to Las Vegas and had coins and currency in his car.

A search of his Brandee Court house turned up thousands of dollars in coins and paper money, as well as gambling notes and receipts from Las Vegas, according to an affidavit.

Holzworth, whose duties included oversight of the machines, was believed to have spent some of the money on gambling, vacations and living expenses. A portion of it was spent at River Rock Casino in Alexander Valley, Ariyoshi said.

Ariyoshi said she would consult campus leaders before extending any settlement offer.

Passalacqua said Holzworth admitted his role in statements to police investigators. He did not say how much Holzworth believes was stolen or provide further details.

Holzworth faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted on 11 felony counts of receiving stolen property and a count of grand theft, with an enhancement for white collar crime. His wife, who was arrested last month, could get county jail time for her alleged role.

Both are free on bail. Jeffrey Holzworth entered not guilty pleas Wednesday, apparently to give more time for prosecutors to compose a pre-trial settlement offer. Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite ordered both to return March 13.

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

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