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Former Santa Rosa Junior College police officer Jeffrey Holzworth stole more than just money when he pocketed $286,000 in campus parking meter funds.

The 28-year law enforcement veteran betrayed the public trust while damaging the image of others who wear the uniform as the scandal unfolded over the past 18 months.

At Holzworth's sentencing Thursday, in which he received four years in prison, campus police Chief Matt McCaffrey said Holzworth hurt not only the school, but he disgraced the department, subjecting fellow officers to ridicule and unfounded suspicion.

"Jeff Holzworth did not just commit a crime. He committed a crime, on duty, in uniform and exploited the trust that had been given to him for his own personal gain," the chief said. "The damage he has done to the community ... far exceeds any cash he put into his own pockets."

Holzworth, 52, offered a brief apology before he was handcuffed in the courtroom and ordered to begin serving his time.

His wife, Karen Holzworth, 50, who is awaiting trial on accessory charges, sobbed from her seat in the audience as Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite denied a request for probation.

"I'm truly sorry," Holzworth said. "I am remorseful. I ask for a second chance."

Holzworth faced a maximum five-year sentence. Under state sentencing laws, he will be eligible for release after serving half the term.

The balding ex-cop, who oversaw the campus parking meter program, was arrested in 2012 after a fellow officer reported seeing stacks of small bills and coins in his car.

A three-week investigation in which detectives followed him with a GPS tracking device revealed he had been stealing money from automated machines over a seven-year period.

He spent it on a lifestyle his salary could not afford, taking gambling trips and buying things for himself and his family, prosecutor Amy Ariyoshi said.

"He did it to go to Las Vegas ... and maintain a certain lifestyle," Ariyoshi said. "To do what he wanted to do."

Detectives said stacks of small bills were hidden all over his house. His wife is accused of helping him by making bank deposits and withdrawing larger denominations.

Ultimately, Jeff Holzworth pleaded guilty to a count of grand theft and 11 counts of receiving stolen property in a deal with the judge to limit his prison term to a maximum of four years.

Thistlethwaite rejected his bid for probation based on his age and lack of a criminal record.

"Your actions are beyond the pale," she said. "You violated the public trust."

An insurance policy reimbursed the campus for about $286,000 but McCaffrey said the true loss may never be known.

The amount reflects only the cash that was recorded in bank transactions Holzworth made, he said.

He said in the year after Holzworth's arrest, parking machine revenue increased 98 percent, from about $216,000 to $429,000 — a difference of more than $240,000. It's possible that over seven years, Holzworth could have taken more than $286,000, he said.

Since the thefts, the campus has adopted new procedures for collecting parking machine cash and has purchased new, more secure machines, he said.

"It not only protects our school from thefts, it protects our employees from allegations," McCaffrey said.