San Diego Zoo

Former Biologist Admits to Stealing Thousands From San Diego Zoo: US Attorney


A former biologist admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the San Diego Zoo, the Office of the U.S. Attorney announced Thursday.

Matthew Anderson, 49, pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.

Anderson, of Ramona, worked at the zoo for over 17 years. He started working as a research fellow and ultimately serving as the Director of Behavioral Biology for the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research until the zoo terminated his employment in late 2017, the U.S. Attorney said.

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 $236,000 in total, the U.S. Attorney said.

“When an employee is elevated to a position of leadership, it is a sign of that company’s trust in the integrity and honesty of that person,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Brunner. “When an employee violates that trust and abuses their position to defraud and steal money for personal benefit, the FBI stands ready to hold them accountable.”

Anderson faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. His sentencing is scheduled for June 8.  

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