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Former San Diego Zoo biologist sentenced for embezzling from zoo

Posted at 6:54 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 21:54:43-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A former biologist at the San Diego Zoo was sentenced Wednesday to six months in federal prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars by cashing payments for false invoices he created.

Matthew John Anderson, 50, of Ramona, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a theft charge for taking more than $236,000 from the zoo over the course of eight years. The U.S. Attorney's Office said that as a citizen of the United Kingdom, Anderson will likely face deportation once his sentence is completed.

He has paid the full restitution amount back to the zoo, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

"For years, this defendant took advantage of the trust of one of our city's most beloved institutions," said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. "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."

Prosecutors said Anderson created dozens of fake invoices -- often using the name of fictitious vendors -- then submitted the invoices to the zoo for payment for products that were never purchased or received. Additionally, he submitted invoices for his personal expenses.

The zoo sent payments to accounts he controlled or to other third parties, who sent the bulk of the payments to Anderson, prosecutors said.

Anderson worked at the zoo for more than 17 years and served as the director of behavioral biology for the zoo's Institute for Conservation Research. He was fired in late 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.