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No contest plea in Placer County employee embezzlement case

Robert Ott Sr. facing a suspended sentence in case of missing bus-fare money
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - A former Placer County transportation division employee faces a suspended sentence after pleading no contest to a single misdemeanor charge of embezzlement. By signing a plea agreement, Robert Louis Ott Sr., 62, avoids a jury trial and the possibility of jail time on a felony embezzlement count if found guilty. Under the agreement, which is to be reviewed at a September hearing, Ott will have a three-year suspended sentence and perform 100 hours of community service. The agreement was worked out with Deputy District Attorney Lisa Botwinik and Assistant Public Defender John Spurling, with Judge Alan Pineschi presiding. Court records show that, under terms of the agreement, a felony count of crime by a public officer is dismissed. Ott, 63, a transportation supervisor with Placer County, was charged in December 2010 with embezzling public funds. An initial charge of felony embezzlement was dismissed in the summer of 2011 on the grounds that the alleged amount stolen ? around $900 ? was less than the $950 felony threshold. Ott lodged ?not guilty? pleas to all original counts and testified in his own defense at a preliminary hearing. At the time, he stated that any missing money was part of a petty-cash fund established for unexpected expenses in the transportation division. A 13-year county employee who lives in the rural El Dorado County community of Garden Valley, Ott said he was tacitly authorized by his superior to collect the money from funds collected on Placer County bus routes. But Placer County Sheriff?s Office investigators said that they snared Ott in a trap and he admitted using the money for personal use. Detective Jim Hudson told the court hearing that Ott?s job was to count the day?s collection from bus routes and deposit them in county funds. He instructed transportation employees other than Ott to count the incoming receipts the night before the transportation supervisor did. On the first day, there was a $31 difference, Hudson said. The second day, bills were marked the night before. Hudson said $11 was missing in the Dec. 7, 2010, count. After asking Ott to show him the contents of his wallet, all the marked bills were found inside, he said. Hudson said Ott divulged he had taken about $1,000 over six months to pay for gas to drive his vehicle to and from work. Ott was initially placed on administrative leave from his $57,618-a-year job with the county but has since retired. The conditional sentence, signed on May 18, will be reviewed by Pineschi on Sept. 28.