A 29-year-old Santa Rosa man who embezzled more than $100,000 from his wife's grandfather while posing as a decorated combat veteran and Sonoma County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Tuesday to five years in state prison.
Paul Alexander Tart, who has been in custody since his September arrest, did not look at his 97-year-old victim, Leonard Key, also of Santa Rosa, as his sentenced was announced.
Prosecutor Robin Hammond said the elderly victim, who used a walker to help him into the courthouse Tuesday, is a World War II veteran and longtime chicken ranch owner.
"It's a very sad situation that his life savings was depleted by Mr. Tart," Hammond told Judge Arthur Wick.
She said an investigation was ongoing to determine if Tart stole more than $70,000 from another bank account. In addition to the sentence, Tart was ordered to make restitution to Key for the $100,000 he took from him.
Tart will do his time, about 2-1/2 years under sentencing laws, in the California Rehabilitation Center in Riverside County where he will be treated for a prescription drug habit that he said involved taking 60 to 70 pills a day.
He made no comment during the hearing but admitted his theft and deceptions in a written probation report that outlined a long criminal history in Illinois that involved stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his parents.
He said he stole money to pay for an expensive Oxycontin addiction and lied to his fourth wife, Amber Tart, about being a war veteran and Sheriff's Office process server to avoid looking like "a loser."
"It was better to say that than to say I was a convicted felon," Tart said in a recent interview with probation officials. "The last thing I wanted to do was tell her I was a loser."
He said his parents served in the military and that his lies probably broke his father's heart.
Detectives recovered pictures of Tart in a full-dress Marine Corps uniform decorated with a Purple Heart which he told people he got falling out of a helicopter in Iran or Afghanistan.
His Jeep had a bumper sticker that said, "Once a Marine, always a Marine."
In his probation interview, he said he signed up for the Marines in 1999 but backed out after meeting a woman. He said he has been lying about his experience ever since.
"I don't think I could do anything more shameful," Tart said in the report. "I can't imagine how much dishonor it brings to the ones who did serve."
His phony story involved telling his wife he was in law enforcement. He wore a polo shirt with sheriff's insignia on it, made fake pay stubs and drove a Ford Crown Victoria that resembled an unmarked patrol car.
At one point, Tart gained power of attorney over his wife's grandfather and began using his ATM card and forging checks to make purchases and withdrawals. He liquidated a $51,000 annuity, spending most of the money on Oycontin pills at $20 apiece.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.