Mark Neider said he loved his North Bay Regional Center social worker, Larry Gene Sark.
But that was before the developmentally disabled Santa Rosa man found out Sark had been stealing from him and 34 others to the tune of about $385,000.
Neider expressed his disappointment Thursday at a Sonoma County Superior Court hearing in which Sark was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
It was especially galling, Neider said, that Sark had been treating himself to expensive trips and fine restaurants while Neider was unable to afford to take his 10-year-old son to the movies or miniature golfing.
“It’s not cool,” Neider told the white-haired Sark, 67, before he was led away to begin his punishment. “He pretty much robbed me of my life.”
Neider was one of about a half-dozen North Bay Regional Center clients to voice their feelings about Sark on Thursday in a Santa Rosa courtroom. The center serves people with mental disabilities and conditions like autism, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.
Sark, a 23-year employee who was responsible for helping disabled people manage their finances, instead forged their signatures on the backs of their Social Security checks and deposited the money into his own accounts.
The embezzlement, which police believed involved as many as 51 victims, occurred from 2006 until Sark retired in 2012. Individual losses ranged from about $1,200 to more than $29,000.
Sark, who received a salary of $55,000 a year, pocketed from $3,000 to $7,000 a month, prosecutor Sharmalee Rajakumaran said. He spent some of it on an Egyptian honeymoon, trips to high-end golf resorts and gourmet restaurants, police said.
The Santa Rosa man was arrested earlier this year when police, investigating allegations of inappropriate contact with a client, discovered he had been cashing checks.