An Elk Grove man who defrauded the state of nearly $2 million has been sentenced to nine years in prison and must forfeit personal property -- houses and a collection of Star Wars memorabilia -- under terms of a plea deal announced this afternoon.
Eric Hodgson, the 43-year-old owner of Phenix Print & Image, was arrested in April on 22 counts of grand theft after allegedly taking more than $1.8 million to advertise new construction contracts to bidders as required by state law. Caltrans paid the 2008 and 2009 contracts but cancelled a third in 2011 for more than $800,000 before any invoices were paid.
Caltrans staff found evidence of the alleged fraud during a routine request for proof of the advertisements' publication in local newspapers. California Department of Justice investigators subsequently found Hodgson defrauded the state with bogus documentation and used the money to pay off a mortgage, buy toys and comics and purchase "exotic trips" for himself and company employees, according to a news release from Attorney General Kamala Harris' office.
Hodgson pleaded guilty to seven of the 22 counts. In addition to his prison sentence, he will forfeit two residences, two cars, several retirement accounts and a collection of Stars Wars items worth more than $10,000 (including the 3-foot-tall Yoda pictured above) that will be auctioned off.
PHOTO: This "life-size" rubber Yoda will be auctioned off as part of Eric Hodgson's plea deal with the state of California. Courtesy of California attorney general's office.