Ex-deputy charged with stealing dead woman’s credit cards

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A former Orange County sheriff’s deputy stole credit cards from a dead woman’s Southern California home and used them to make purchases from QVC and an automotive parts store, prosecutors said Friday.

The charges come after ex-deputy Steve Hortz was previously indicted on multiple felonies in connection with breaking into the home of a dead man to steal more than $27,000 in guns and other items in July 2020. He has pleaded not guilty, and that case remains ongoing.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced Hortz’s second case in a news release on Friday. His arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 26.

“This individual was called to assist grieving families in a time of need and instead he betrayed their trust,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in the release.

Hortz’s attorney, Shaheen Manshoory, said prosecutors have not turned over much information to them in the case.

“At this time, we will let the process play out in court,” Manshoory said in an email Friday.

Authorities arrested Hortz last year in that case, alleging that the 12-year veteran had responded to the man’s home in Yorba Linda for a welfare check on July 20, 2020, and found the homeowner dead of natural causes. Hortz allegedly returned to the home several times — including once on duty wearing his deputy uniform — to steal the man’s belongings.

The burglaries were captured on home surveillance video, and a probate attorney reported the thefts to the sheriff’s department. Hortz was arrested on Sept. 10, 2020, and resigned 20 days later instead of being fired. He was indicted on three felony counts of second-degree burglary and two felony counts of grand theft of a firearm.

Authorities have since discovered that in August 2020 — before Hortz was identified as a suspect in the deceased man’s case — he was called to the home of a dead woman in Yorba Linda, where he allegedly stole three credit cards.

Prosecutors allege that he tried to make thousands of dollars worth of unauthorized online purchases — the majority of which were declined — and have some of them sent to his home.

Hortz was charged Friday with one felony count of identity theft, one felony count of grand theft embezzlement, and four felony counts of attempted grand theft. He faces four years and four months in state prison if convicted in the credit card case.

“Like many members of the public, I am extremely disappointed by the inexcusable actions of Mr. Hortz and his failure to uphold his responsibilities while employed as a peace officer,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said in a statement Friday. “Mr. Hortz has been separated from the Department, and will be held accountable for violating the public’s trust through the criminal justice process.”