A former Volunteers of America employee pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing more than $30,000 from her disabled clients and their families.
Sandra Wolf, 41, Port Clinton, now faces a maximum of 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine at her Dec. 17 sentencing.
She was employed by the agency since 1993 as an assistant for disabled men and women living in group homes and apartments in the Port Clinton area. Wolf was put on administrative leave April 21 and later fired after a representative from Partners in Community reported a protocol violation to Susan Reamsnyder, president of the Northwest Ohio chapter of the Volunteers of America.
According to the court record, Wolf told Reamsnyder her drug problem started after a female employee expressed a romantic interest in her in July 2008. Wolf said she didn't know how to handle the situation and began to abuse alcohol, cocaine and eventually crack.
The money she stole from clients should have been used for their rent, food and basic living expenses. Families of the clients expressed outrage at Wolf's abuse of their trust.
Some of the men and women Wolf cared for were so attached to her they didn't mention the missing money so she wouldn't get in trouble.
Wolf told Judge Bruce Winters in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday that she was guilty of felony theft.
"I basically became addicted to drugs and I was using other people's money to feed my habit," Wolf said, her voice wavering.
Winters pressed her to be specific about what people she wronged.
"The individuals I worked for," she said. "They put their trust in me, and I broke their trust."
The courtroom was full with clients' family members, other care workers and Wolf's family seated on the benches. Wolf, dressed in a dark brown turtleneck and khaki pants, spoke quietly and clutched a tissue through the proceedings.
Wolf will be required to repay $8,922 to Volunteers of America as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Several people in the audience shook their heads in disagreement at the amount.
Assistant prosecutor Andrew Bigler told the judge that a Volunteers of America insurance settlement covered all but about $9,000 of the $30,000 theft.
He said Volunteers of America reimbursed all of the other victims and was the only remaining party with a claim to restitution.
The terms of the plea agreement were still being worked out at the time the hearing was scheduled to start.
Winters chastised the defense council and the state when the hearing started almost an hour late. He asked why an agreement had not been reached during the two months they had to prepare for the hearing.
Bigler said they had just settled Tuesday morning on the amount Wolf owed in restitution.