GUILTY: Holzworth could receive four years in plea deal

Holzworth leaving court arraignment Feb. 20. 2013.

Erik Jorgensen, Editor-at-Large

Former campus cop Jeffrey Holzworth pleaded guilty to all charges of stealing $286,000 from Santa Rosa Junior College parking funds before his April 2, 2014 preliminary hearing. Holzworth accepted a plea deal for all 11 charges of receiving stolen property and one charge of grand theft by embezzlement, in exchange for a maximum four years in prison.

Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite accepted Holzworth’s plea deal, then continued the preliminary hearing for Holzworth’s wife Karen, facing charges of receiving stolen property and acting as an accessory.

The former 28-year veteran SRJC District Police officer held sole responsibility, without oversight, of collecting money from parking permit machines at all SRJC campuses. Prosecutors had bank records going back to 2005 of Holzworth’s suspicious cash deposits.

SRJC president Dr. Frank Chong said, “We have learned from this experience and have put safeguards in place to prevent this from occurring again.” Chong said Doug Roberts, VP of finance and business services, obtained fraud insurance and SRJC has been reimbursed for the documented loss.

Co-worker Sgt. Stephen Potter observed bundled bills in the center console of Holzworth’s private vehicle and told his superiors in October 2012. New SRJC District Police Chief Matthew McCaffrey contacted Santa Rosa Police detective Mark Azzouni, who obtained two search warrants on Nov. 13, 2012 to place GPS trackers on Holzworth’s vehicles and check his credit report. Azzouni wrote in his affidavit, “It is my belief that Holzworth was removing monies from the parking permit machines and erasing the machines’ memory with [his] laptop computer.”

Before Holzworth’s April 2 preliminary hearing began, prosecution and defense attorneys conferred in Thistlethwaite’s chambers. At 10:36 a.m. Holzworth pleaded guilty to all felony charges, in exchange for a possible maximum sentence of four years in prison.

Holzworth’s attorney Joe Passalacqua said outside the courtroom he will argue for probation. Holzworth has no prior criminal history, took full responsibility for a non-violent offense and was “a contributing member to society and SRJC for some 28 years, until this last unfortunate financial situation.”

The preliminary hearing against Karen Holzworth began without a break after Holzworth’s plea deal. Azzouni testified detectives found cash stashed “in all parts of the house,” including the kitchen, bedroom, garage, attic and crawlspace.

Records from two banks going back to 2005 showed both Holzworths regularly made deposit-withdrawals of large amounts of small bills exchanged for larger bills.

After a two-hour recess, Azzouni testified about 22 recorded jailhouse phone calls between the Holzworths. In one recording, “You told me to stop doing it, I didn’t listen. It’s all on me,” Jeffrey Holzworth said.

“Yes, but I knew about it so doesn’t that make it on me, too?” Karen Holzworth said.

Boisseau said the recorded calls only showed Karen knew her husband stole from his job. “The prosecution’s case is built on a house of sand. They need more [proof] than just knowledge and participation.” Boisseau said the spouses had not been getting along for years, except for living in the same house, and Holzworth had affairs with co-workers and went “to hookers.”

Thistlethwaite ruled Karen Holzworth deposited cash with knowledge her husband “stole hand over fist from SRJC.” She continues to trial for one count of acting as an accessory, but Thistlethwaite dropped one of her three felony charges of receiving stolen property and reduced one to a misdemeanor.

The next step in her trial is a filing of information hearing at 9 a.m. April 14. Holzworth’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 29 in courtroom 2.

“I’m hoping we can put this terrible episode at the college behind us,” Chong said.