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Former longtime San Diego Zoo employee admits to stealing $236K

Generic San Diego Zoo
Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 18:49:19-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A former longtime San Diego Zoo biologist has pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the iconic zoo.

Matthew John Anderson, 49, of Ramona, Calif., admitted to stealing more than $236,000 through bogus vendor invoices between December 2008 and October 2016, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney Southern District of California.

Investigators say Anderson created 35 fake invoices billing the San Diego Zoo for various payments from purported vendors. The zoo paid the invoices to third parties that then gave the bulk of the payment to Anderson. In some cases, the payments went directly to accounts controlled by Anderson.

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Anderson worked for more than 17 years for the zoo, starting as a research fellow and going on to serve as the Director of Behavioral Biology for the zoo's Conservation Research. He was fired in 2017.

“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 has been charged with theft or conversion concerning programs receiving federal funds. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He's scheduled to be sentenced on June 8.