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Former pastor sentenced in Lake County church embezzlement

A former Lake County pastor has been sentenced to three years in state prison for embezzling an estimated $100,000 in cash and property from his church.

Bruce Anthony Stark, 63, of Stockton, was handcuffed and taken into custody Tuesday after the sentence was handed down, said Lake County Deputy District Attorney Sharon Lerman-Hubert.

Stark, who served as pastor of the Hilltop Apostolic Church in Clearlake from 2002 to 2008, had pleaded guilty in December to one count of grand theft, she said. The plea could have resulted in a sentence that ranged from probation to three years, Lerman-Hubert said.

Members of Stark's former congregation were thankful for the sentence, which was warranted, she said.

"It's hard to imagine a more egregious crime, stealing from one's own church," Lerman-Hubert said.

Stark's wife, Shanell Stark, the church's one-time treasurer, previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, Lerman-Hubert said.

Bruce Stark's thefts included cash, a van and land parcels that belonged to the church, Lerman-Hubert said. He reportedly borrowed money against the property.

Stark has claimed he spent most of the money on the church.


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