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California man defrauds state, loses Star Wars collection

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The force is no longer with Eric Hodgson, a California man who gave up a collection of Star Wars memorabilia worth more than $10,000 in a plea deal to charges that he defrauded a state agency out of nearly $1.9 million.

Hodgson was charged in April with 22 counts of grand theft after the California Department of Transportation hired him to publish advertisements for construction contracts in local newspapers. "He instead used the money to pay off a mortgage, make purchases of toys and comics, and pay for exotic trips for him and his company staff," State Attorney General Kamala Harris' office said in a statement.

Hodgson, 43, pleaded guilty on Thursday to defrauding the agency and has agreed to forfeit his Star Wars collection. He must also forfeit two residences, two cars and retirement accounts as part of the plea deal and faces a nine-year prison sentence.

Nick Pacilio, a spokesman for Harris, said on Friday that among the forfeited items now slated for auction is a rubber statue of Yoda, approximately three feet tall, complete with robe and wispy hair.

(Reporting by Jim Christie; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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