A former biologist who admitted in March that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the San Diego Zoo was sentenced to prison in federal court on Wednesday.
Matthew Anderson, 50, who had pleaded guilty to charges of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, was remanded to custody after his sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Anderson, a Ramona resident, was employed at the zoo for more than 17 years. He started working as a research fellow and ultimately served as the director of behavioral biology for the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research, until the zoo terminated his employment in late 2017.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Anderson had been sentenced to six months in prison in connection to the case and had made full restitution.
“For years, this defendant took advantage of the trust of one of our city’s most beloved institutions,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement released after the sentencing. “His theft compromised the San Diego Zoo’s world-renowned conservation work, made possible by government grants, charitable donations and the work of thousands of unpaid volunteers.”
Anderson had faced up to 10 years in the case, prosecutors said in March.
In his plea agreement, Anderson admitted that over eight years, he worked to create false invoices in the names of various purported vendors that were presented to the zoo for payment.
The zoo paid those invoices, and in some cases, sent the money to accounts controlled by Anderson or would send money to third parties who sent back the majority of payment to him, the U.S. Attorney said.
In total, Anderson admitted to creating 35 bogus invoices and stealing $237,000, the U.S. attorney said.
“The FBI unraveled a years-long plot to steal money from San Diego's prized institution by a trusted employee,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner in the same statement released Wednesday. “Today, the zoo has been made whole again through payment of full restitution and Mr. Anderson was forced to face justice for his fraudulent actions through his prison sentence.”
Since he is a citizen of the United Kingdom, Anderson will likely face deportation as a result of his sentence, authorities said.