Sheriff's Deputy Stole From Dead People

Steve Hortz pleads guilty to burglary, grand theft in Yorba Linda, Calif.
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2020 8:05 AM CDT
Updated Mar 1, 2022 8:19 AM CST

(Newser) Update: A former sheriff's deputy in California has pleaded guilty to stealing from the homes of dead people. Steve Hortz, a 12-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, found the body of a man who died of natural causes at a Yorba Linda home in July 2020 before returning multiple times to steal thousands of dollars' worth of items, per the Los Angeles Times. Investigators said he also tried to make thousands of dollars' worth of purchases using three credit cards he stole from the Yorba Linda home of a dead woman in August 2020. Hortz pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony second-degree burglary, felony grand theft of a firearm, and several misdemeanors. He faces 120 days in jail and two years of probation. Our original story from September 2020 follows:

A Southern California man's work uniform may have initially helped him pull off a crime, but not ultimately. Steve Hortz, a deputy who's been with the Orange County Sheriff's Department for 12 years, was arrested Thursday after being accused of breaking into a home he'd reported to earlier this summer. Sheriff's officials say a man in his 70s died of apparent natural causes at the Yorba Linda residence, and Hortz responded to a call about that death on July 20, per NBC News and KTLA. Then, on July 27, Hortz returned to the unoccupied home wearing his deputy garb and broke in through the back; it's not clear if he took anything during that visit, per a sheriff's office release. Officials say Hortz then made two more mid-August visits while dressed in street clothes and stole multiple items.

He was busted after an attorney for the deceased man's estate showed up Wednesday at the sheriff's office, with a complaint of missing items from the home as well as security footage showing Hortz breaking in, officials say. Hortz is accused of taking ceiling fans, a rifle case, a couple of safes, and other unspecified items. In a statement, Sheriff Don Barnes calls Hortz's alleged actions "inexcusable and intolerable" and "a violation of public trust." Per CBS Los Angeles, Hortz has been booked into the Santa Ana Jail on suspicion of burglary, with a $20,000 bond. A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office says Hortz is currently on paid administrative leave, though the possibility of that shifting to unpaid leave is being examined. Officials say they're also looking into previous calls responded to by Hortz to see if anything similar happened in those cases. (Read more burglary stories.)

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