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Top 10 — No. 3: Ex-DSA president pleads no contest to embezzlement

Atkinson 107

DONALD ATKINSON, right, sits with El Dorado County Public Defender Robert Banning during his court case in 2012. Democrat photo by Shelly Thorene

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From page A1 | January 07, 2013 | Leave Comment

On March 12, 2012 a retired El Dorado County sergeant was arraigned on an allegation of embezzling money from the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, of which had previously been the president of. Though initially pleading not guilty, he would later change his plea.

Donald Philip Atkinson, of El Dorado Hills, pleaded not guilty of embezzling more than $300,000 over six years. At the hearing, Senior Assistant Attorney General Ronald D. Smetana, who jointly represented the prosecution with the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, handed public defender Todd Jones a CD with over 19,000 pages of documents and evidence for the case.

June 18 saw Atkinson changing his plea regarding the 44 counts, including embezzlement, fraud, forgery, perjury, grand theft and theft from an elder or dependent adult, he was charged with. He pleaded no contest to three counts, with all others being dropped.

The charges he agreed to were felony embezzlement by a public or private officer exceeding $950, with a special allegation of excessive loss of more than $200,000; felony theft from an elder or dependent adult, Lise Lotte Holzer; and perjury pertaining to statements regarding money of the DSA with a special allegation of it being an aggravated white-collar crime.

Atkinson was sentenced on July 30. He appeared  appeared in-custody with his attorney, Robert Banning, sitting next to him. Deputy district attorney James Clinchard and Stephanie Clark from the county Probation Department appeared with Smetana for the prosecution. Judge Douglas C.  Phimister sentenced Atkinson to five years in state prison.  Restitution and court fees added up to over $400,000. Atkinson agreed in an earlier hearing to pay $1,000 per month from his retirement fund. It was found that he would owe more than $338,000 to the DSA and $100,000 to Holzer. Property and assets totaling about $55,000 will be split by Atkinson and his wife Sandra, with Atkinson’s half being used towards restitution. He waived his right to appeal.

According to a press release from Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and District Attorney Vern Pierson, Atkinson “opened bank accounts in his name and submitted forged documents to the DSA to justify payments made to him and his companies. Much of the money was obtained through ATM withdrawals and checks payable to Atkinson, which made his actions difficult for auditors to trace.”

Atkinson claimed money he was drawing from the DSA account was going to charity, including the families of four murdered Oakland police officers, when he was instead pocketing the money. An apartment for a woman Atkinson was in a relationship with was also paid for with the money. An investigation revealed Atkinson had falsified Fair Political Practice Commission forms and had forged documents he submitted to the DSA, the press release stated.

An elderly victim with cancer had loaned Atkinson $100,000 to purchase a photography business, but Atkinson, according to bank statements, did not use the money for that purpose. He had also falsified information on the contract he signed.

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