California Department of Justice

Eric Hodgson's plea deal in a fraud case took away houses, cars and his Star Wars collection, which included this Yoda figure on a pedestal.

The Buzz: Elk Grove man admits bilking Caltrans, agrees to forfeit Star Wars stash

Published: Saturday, Jul. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

An Elk Grove man who bilked Caltrans of more than $1.8 million took a plea deal this week that includes not only nine years in prison but forfeiture of his Star Wars collection.

Eric Hodgson, 43, was arrested in April on 22 counts of grand theft. His company, Phenix Print & Image, contracted with Caltrans to advertise construction work to bidders, as required by state law.

Department staff suspected the ads didn't run in local newspapers, however, after they asked for publication proof.

Investigators said Hodgson dummied up invoices for ads that never ran and used the money to pay off a home loan, fund exotic trips and buy comics and toys.

Hodgson pleaded guilty Thursday to seven charges and agreed to give up two homes, two cars and several retirement savings accounts.

The state also will auction off his Star Wars memorabilia, including an encased model of the Millennium Falcon spacecraft, limited-edition light sabers and a 3-foot-tall rubber Yoda clothed in sackcloth-like cotton and holding a cane atop a display pedestal.

A collectibles expert told Attorney General Kamala Harris' office, which investigated the case, that the Star Wars stash is worth $10,000.

– Jon Ortiz

CAMPAIGN WATCH

Vote-by-mail ballots are already coming in for the July 23 special election in the 16th Senate District, and Republican Andy Vidak of Hanford and Democrat Leticia Perez of Bakersfield are tracking them for clues. According to Political Data Inc., nearly 30,000 ballots had been mailed as of Wednesday to the elections offices in Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties.

– Fresno Bee

WORTH REPEATING

"I was just at a gas station in Arroyo Grande, and there was a line for the bathroom. I didn't want to waste any time, so I won three votes while I was waiting in line."

ASSEMBLYMAN TIM DONNELLY, R-Twin Peaks, telling a crowd in rural Atascadero on Wednesday that he's in the 2014 governor's race "to win it"

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