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‘Star Wars’ collector gets prison time in Caltrans fraud

The force is no longer with an Elk Grove man who bought a 3-foot-tall rubber Yoda figurine and other “Star Wars” memorabilia worth $10,000 with money he defrauded from the California Department of Transportation.

In exchange for reduced charges, Eric Hodgson, 43, pleaded guilty to a scheme to bilk Caltrans out of nearly $2 million, Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris said Friday.

Hodgson agreed to a nine-year prison sentence and to forfeit two homes, two cars, retirement savings and the “Star Wars” loot.

He was arrested in April on 22 counts of grand theft after an investigation that began when Caltrans staff discovered fraudulent invoices for print advertisements that were never placed in newspapers as promised. Hodgson pleaded guilty in Sacramento County Superior Court on Thursday to seven of the counts as part of the plea deal.

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Caltrans hired Hodgson, as the owner of Phenix Print & Image, to advertise construction contracts to bidders. Instead, he pocketed the cash. Caltrans discovered the fraud during a routine request for proof of publication of the advertisements.

A subsequent Department of Justice investigation found that Caltrans paid Phenix $1.8 million in 2008 and 2009. The agency awarded Phenix a third contract in 2011 for more than $800,000 but discovered the fraud before making any payments on that one.

Hodgson spent the money to pay off a mortgage, buy toys and comics, as well as pay for exotic trips for himself and his staff.

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Twitter: @lisagirion

lisa.girion@latimes.com

California Department of Transportation


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