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Santa Rosa man who posed as drug rehab counselor gets jail

A Santa Rosa man accused of posing as a drug rehabilitation counselor and bilking residents of sober living houses in Sonoma County and across Northern California is going to jail.

Ricky Lee Diffenderfer, 66, pleaded no contest Tuesday to grand theft and welfare fraud in a plea bargain with prosecutors carrying a two-year sentence.

Diffenderfer, who billed himself as Dr. D, was arrested in June following an investigation into claims he took money from the family of a drug-addicted man but never provided services.

During the probe, agents found Diffenderfer and his wife, Catey Ann McFadden, 57, had committed welfare fraud in 2013, collecting about $4,100 in food stamps they were not eligible for.

Diffenderfer does not have a state license to offer drug rehabilitation counseling and was previously convicted of writing bad checks in another county, records show.

“He’s been gaming the system,” prosecutor Amy Ariyoshi said.

Diffenderfer, who remains in custody, will be sentenced Sept. 13. He will be eligible for release after serving one year.

His wife pleaded no contest to misdemeanor welfare fraud under an agreement to perform 40 hours of community service. She declined comment Tuesday as she left the courthouse.

Diffenderfer has been accused of defrauding numerous clients of his sober houses, promising services he never provided.

In published reports, he’s alleged to have taken downpayments from clients he placed in Rohnert Park and Modesto rental houses and failing to pay landlords who were then forced to evict them.

He operated Harmony Mountain Treatment Services with offices in downtown Santa Rosa and claimed to be a Sonoma County drug court coordinator for the nonprofit Drug Abuse Alternative Center.

John Challis, supervisor of DAAC, said Diffenderfer “had a role in the drug court program” in 2012.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ppayne.

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