Ex-DSA prexy charged in embezzling scheme
Retired El Dorado County deputy sheriff Donald Philip Atkinson, 50, of El Dorado Hills was arrested in Nevada Thursday morning on 44 counts of embezzlement, fraud, forgery, perjury, grand theft and theft from an “elder or dependent adult.”
Bail was set by Judge Daniel B. Proud at $1 milion, according to the arrest warrant.
The charges were announced March 8 in a joint press release by state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson.
Atkinson had been president of the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriffs Association.
“An investigation by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office with the assistance from the AG’s office showed Atkinson falsified official documents, including Fair Political Practice Commission forms, submitted forged documents to the DSA and claimed checks were written for charitable purposes but pocketed the money,” the press release states.
Among the “charitable purposes” was money the DSA collected to send when officers were killed in the line of duty elsewhere, according to deputy DA James Clinchard.
Altogether “falsified records” indicated checks for “more than $20,000 were written for charitable purposes, including a donation for families of four murdered Oakland police officers,” according to the press release.
“None of the named organizations and individuals received donations from either Atkinson or the DSA,” the press release states.
Harris and Pierson also said Atkinson “used DSA funds to open bank accounts in his name and submitted forged documents to the DSA to justify payments to him and his companies.”
Atkinson began his employment with El Dorado County in 1994 and retired in September 2011, according to a Sheriff’s Department press release.
“During his employment, Don Atkinson achieved the rank of sergeant and was the president of the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff’s Association for several years,” the release states. “In 2011 concerns were brought to Sheriff D’Agostini regarding financial discrepancy within the DSA accounts. Sheriff D’Agostini reviewed the information and forwarded it to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and Attorney General’s Office for review.”
Atkinson allegedly embezzled more than $300,000 over six years.
“Obviously all members of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office and, specifically, the members of the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff’s Association feel very betrayed as would any other victim of such a crime,” D’Agostini said. “Everyone is grateful for the thorough investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office will put this behind us and continue to provide the best level of law enforcement we can to the citizens of El Dorado County.”
According to the 11-page criminal complaint filed by Harris’ office in El Dorado County Superior Court March 6 the embezzlement took place between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 30, 2011.
Count 1 alleges $295,195 embezzled from the El Dorado County DSA.
Count 3 alleges he took “property of a value exceeding $65,000” from Liselotte Holzer, an “elder or dependent adult.” The felony charges in this count are “theft, embezzlement, forgery, fraud, and identity theft.”
The elder theft involved the victim loaning Atkinson $100,000 to purchase a photography business from a man with cancer. “Atkinson had falsified information in the contract he signed and bank records indicate that none of the victim’s funds were spent for the purpose Atkinson had claimed,” according to the press release.
Harris and Pierson said, “Several checks drawn from the DSA general fund and signed by Atkinson were used to pay rent for an apartment occupied by a woman with whom he was in a relationship.”
Several of the counts against him include the word “counterfeiting” bills to be paid by the DSA.
In a final section of the complaint called “jurisdictional clauses,” it is noted that a number of counts were “commenced by the defendant … in Nevada .. and were consummated in El Dorado County.
Count 3, the elder theft allegation “occurred in El Dorado and Los Angeles counties.