Former California deputy charged with burglarizing home of man he found dead during welfare check

National News

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KTLA) — A 42-year-old man has been charged with breaking into the home of a dead man while on duty as an Orange County sheriff’s deputy and later returning to the home to steal 15 guns, prosecutors said Thursday.

Steve Hortz, of San Dimas, learned the man was dead after performing a welfare check at the residence in Yorba Linda, California, on July 20 with two other sheriff’s employees, the O.C. District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

It was later determined that the man, in his 70s, died from natural causes. 

Following the welfare check, Hortz, a 12-year veteran of the force, was captured on security cameras returning to the home three times, including once when he broke in while on duty and in uniform, the DA’s office said.

Hortz faces three felony counts of second-degree burglary and two felony counts of grand theft of a firearm. 

The deputy is accused of first returning July 27. He then stopped by on Aug. 10 and Aug. 16, stealing items shortly before he was scheduled to work, according to prosecutors.

The DA’s office says Hortz took a total of 15 firearms. Sheriff’s detectives said other stolen goods included ceiling fans and weapons safes.

The Sheriff’s Department began investigating after a tip from the probate attorney handling the homeowner’s estate. Officials said they also planned to review previous calls for service handled by Hortz for any impropriety.

“I will do everything we can to make sure he does not return to a uniform in this organization or anywhere else for that matter,” O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said during a news conference announcing the arrest.

The accusations against Hortz were made public a day after Deputy Angelina Cortez, 41, was charged with taking a theft suspect’s credit card and giving it to her son in 2018. The day after Hortz’s arrest, the Sheriff’s Department announced it was investigating another seven deputies who falsely reported they’d been called to serve in the military and collected paid leave.

Hortz was arrested in the case Sept. 10. He resigned in lieu of termination effective Sept. 30, prosecutors said.

Hortz could face up to four years and four months in state prison if convicted as charged.

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