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Final Defendant Sentenced for Role in Shaking Down Investors Connected to $40 Million Ponzi Fraud

SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that today United States District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Michael David Sanders, 43, of Fair Oaks, to two years' probation and 180 days of home confinement for his role in conspiring to impersonate an FBI agent. He pleaded guilty on February 19, 2010.

Previously sentenced were co-defendants Craig Anderson, 41, of Chicago; Sean Smartt, 42, of Sacramento; and Cassandra Moore, 27, of Beverly Hills, after pleading guilty. Anderson and Smartt were sentenced to two years’ probation and 180 days of home confinement, and Moore was sentenced to two years’ probation.

According to the plea agreements, in what was an attempt to recoup investor money lost in a Ponzi scheme carried out by federal defendant Anthony Vassallo, on March 8, 2009, Sanders, Anderson, Moore, and Smartt entered an office suite in Folsom, where a meeting was taking place with three hedge-fund operators and two others. The defendants entered dressed to give the impression of authority (bullet proof vests, ear pieces, fake credentials, hand cuffs, and badges). Sanders and Anderson announced they were with the FBI and the United States Security and Exchange Commission. In their guilty pleas the defendants admitted to creating an environment that was intimidating and causing the individuals to believe that they were not free to leave. Anderson told the hedge fund operators that they had until noon on Monday, March 9, 2009, to wire $378,300.16 to a Patelco Credit Union bank account in the name of the “Spirit Foundation” and to send an e-mail confirmation to an e-mail address they provided. No money was ever turned over to the defendants.

This case was the product of an investigation by the FBI and the IRS-Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Robin R. Taylor prosecuted the case.

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