Douglas County deputy pleads guilty to theft by deceptionDouglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Hotchkiss pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft by deception Wednesday morning at the Minnehaha County Courthouse.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Hotchkiss pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft by deception Wednesday morning at the Minnehaha County Courthouse.
Hotchkiss faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in a state penitentiary and a $20,000 fine.
Hotchkiss was indicted on four counts of grand theft by deception in November. In exchange for his plea, three of those counts were dropped by Special Assistant Attorney General Donald Srstka, who is representing the state.
The remaining count, to which Hotchkiss has now pleaded guilty, is from an incident in November 2008 in which he submitted fraudulent insurance applications to American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus — commonly known as AFLAC — in order to secure commission in excess of $1,000.
Before entering his plea, Hotchkiss was asked by Judge Peter H. Lieberman whether the decision to enter a guilty plea was his or his attorney’s, Donna Bucher.
“It is my decision, sir,” Hotchkiss responded.
There was some disagreement between the attorneys after Srstka explained the state’s case against Hotchkiss in detail.
Srstka claimed Hotchkiss had created a fictitious roofing company staffed by fictitious workers and then filled out and submitted fraudulent insurance applications for those non-existent workers in order to collect commission.
However, Bucher claimed the supposed workers did actually exist, but the business referred to in the insurance applications may not have existed. She said Hotchkiss had used his own address and phone number on the applications and that alone constituted the crime.
Srstka said neither the state or AFLAC could find any indication the people Hotchkiss insured actually existed.
Though the issue went unresolved at Wednesday’s hearing, it makes no difference as both sides now agree that Hotchkiss committed a crime.
There was no mention of Hotchkiss being a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy during Wednesday’s court proceedings.
A presentence investigation of the case was ordered by Judge Lieberman. Hotchkiss’ sentencing will be scheduled as soon as that investigation is complete.