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DA amends charges in Placer County employee embezzlement case

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Prosecutors have refiled charges in an embezzlement case involving allegations against a Placer County employee. Robert Louis Ott Sr. 62, a transportation supervisor with Placer County, was charged last December with embezzling public funds. The Placer County District Attorney’s Office filed an amended complaint that was accepted this week by Judge Colleen Nichols. The new complaint charges Ott with misdemeanor petty theft by embezzlement and a felony count of crime by a public officer. The initial charge of felony embezzlement was dismissed July 29 by Nichols on the grounds that the alleged amount stolen – around $900 – was less than the $950 felony threshold. Ott pleaded not guilty to all original counts and at the preliminary hearing testified that any missing money was part of a petty-cash fund set up for unexpected expenses in the transportation division. The 13-year county employee said he was tacitly authorized by his superiors to collect the money from funds collected on Placer County bus routes. Detective Jim Hudson testified at the hearing that after learning of suspected theft in the transportation division, he instructed employees other than Ott to count the incoming receipts the night before the transportation supervisor did. Ott’s job was to count the day’s collections and deposit them in county funds. On the first day, there was a $31 discrepancy, Hudson said. The second day, bills were marked the night before. Hudson said $11 was missing in the Dec. 7 count and after asking Ott to show him his wallet, found all of the marked bills. Hudson said Ott told him he had taken about $1,000 over six months to pay for gas to get to and from work. At the time charges were issued, Ott was placed on administrative leave from his $57,618-a-year job pending outcome of the case. Ott’s next court appearance – for a plea on the new charges – is scheduled for Sept. 29