Ex-O.C. deputy pleads guilty to stealing from homes of dead people

A former Orange County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty last week to burglary, embezzlement and identity theft after stealing from the homes of a dead man and woman.

Steve Hortz, a 12-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, had been charged by the Orange County district attorney’s office with multiple felonies and misdemeanors stemming from the thefts that took place in the summer of 2020.

He faces 120 days in jail, which he can apply to serve at home, and two years’ probation during which he is not allowed to seek employment as a police officer, said Kimberly Edds, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office.

In July 2020, Hortz conducted a welfare check at a Yorba Linda home, where he found the body of a man who had died of natural causes.

The deputy was then captured on surveillance video returning to the home in the weeks that followed, at least once while on duty, to reportedly steal thousands of dollars’ worth of firearms and other items.

He was arrested in connection with those incidents in September 2020 and resigned instead of being fired. He was indicted that December on three felony counts of second-degree burglary and two felony counts of grand theft of a firearm.

Investigators later discovered that in August 2020, Hortz was called to the home of a dead woman, also in Yorba Linda, and stole three credit cards.

He attempted to make thousand of dollars’ worth of online purchases with the cards, prosecutors said, but most of the transactions were declined.

In September 2021, Hortz was charged in that case with six felonies: one count of identity theft, one count of grand theft embezzlement and four counts of attempted grand theft.

On Tuesday, Hortz pleaded guilty to one count each of felony second-degree burglary, felony grand theft of a firearm, misdemeanor burglary, misdemeanor identity theft and misdemeanor grand theft by embezzlement.

The four felony counts of attempted grand theft in connection with the stolen credit card were dismissed.

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