A grand jury indicted a former Orange County sheriff’s deputy on burglary and gun theft charges months after he allegedly broke into a deceased man’s home several times, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Surveillance video revealed Steve Hortz, 42, forcing his way into the Yorba Linda home of a man he found dead during a welfare check in the summer, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. He and two other deputies responded to the home located along Via Angelina Drive on July 20 and found the man had died from natural causes, prosecutors said.
Seven days later, Hortz broke into the man’s home while on duty and in uniform, according to prosecutors. He allegedly came back another two times — on Aug. 10 and Aug. 16 — shortly before he was scheduled to work. Prosecutors said he stole 15 firearms among other items.
Hortz, a resident of San Dimas, has been indicted on three felony counts of second-degree burglary and two felony counts of grand theft of a firearm, according to prosecutors.
He could face up to four years and four months in state prison if convicted of all charges.
“This act in and of itself has done so much damage to the public perception of law enforcement and the timing could not be more detrimental,” DA Todd Spitzer said in a written statement Tuesday.
Hortz’ next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 26.
When announcing his arrest on Sept. 10, the O.C. Sheriff’s Department said Hortz was placed on paid leave after investigators discovered he stole items from the man’s home such as weapon safes and ceiling fans. A day earlier, an attorney representing the man’s estate had contacted sheriff’s officials.
“Yesterday was when the surveillance video was brought to our attention,” Carrie Braun, a spokeswoman for the department, said at the time.
The agency had been investigating the thefts for about a week but the lawyer showed officials video of Hortz breaking in, linking him to the thefts for the first time, she said.
On Sept. 30, Hortz resigned from the Sheriff’s Department rather than being fired, prosecutors said.
Following his arrest, sheriff’s officials said they were investigating whether the 12-year veteran deputy committed similar thefts and crimes while on duty.
“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,” Sheriff Don Barnes told reporters at the time.
“He’s embarrassed this profession, he’s embarrassed this organization, and he’s embarrassed the almost 4,000 members who do good work everyday,” Barnes said.
The day before officials announced Hortz’ arrest, Orange County prosecutors announced a felony charge against another O.C. sheriff’s deputy, Angelina Cortez. She was accused of stealing a bank card from a theft suspect in November 2018 and giving it to her son.