3 Plead Guilty In Bizarre Shakedown Bid In Anthony Vassallo/EIMT Ponzi Case; 1 Pleads To Conspiracy To Impersonate An Officer

Three individuals who attempted to shake down the operators of a hedge fund associated with the alleged Equity Investment Management and Training Inc. (EIMT) Ponzi scheme have pleaded guilty in California for their roles in the shakedown bid.

Craig Anderson, 39, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to impersonate a federal officer and employee; Cassandra Moore, 26, of Beverly Hills, Calif., pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawfully possessing false documents, as did Sean Smartt, 41, of Sacramento.

The FBI described the crime as “bizarre,” when the shakedown charges were announced in May 2009. In announcing the guilty pleas today, federal prosecutors said the shakedown attempt occurred after a fake meeting was arranged in March 2009 under the guise that a wealthy investor wanted to meet figures associated with EIMT.

Also participating in the shakedown scheme was Michael David Sanders, 41, of Fair Oaks, Calif., prosecutors said. Sanders has pleaded not guilty. His trial is set to get under way next month.

“Once the individuals were inside the office, Anderson tapped on the window with an identification badge to gain entry,” prosecutors said. “Sanders, Anderson, Moore, and Smartt entered, wearing bulletproof vests, earpieces, and credentials falsely bearing identification information and the authentication feature of the United States.

“They carried handcuffs, badges, and some carried radios and appeared to be armed leaving the impression that they were federal law enforcement agents,” prosecutors said.

Anderson, Moore, and Smartt now “admit that Sanders and Anderson paced around the office, exposed their weapons, and blocked the entrances and exits of the office suite,” prosecutors said. “One of the co-conspirators told the hedge fund operators that the defendants were there to collect funds taken from the . . . (EIMT) account on behalf of fraud victims.”

Anderson, prosecutors said, “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 account in the name of the ‘Spirit Foundation’ and to send an e-mail confirmation,” prosecutors said. “The defendants left a sheet of paper with the wiring instructions, routing number, account number, bank name, amount, and an e-mail address.”

Anderson faces a maximum of five years in federal prison. His sentencing is set for April 27, before U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez.

Smartt and Moore are set to be sentenced on April 25 and 26, before U.S. District Judge Gregory G. Hollows. They face up to a year in prison.

Anthony Vassallo was charged in April 2009, with mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, amid allegations he operated the $40 million EIMT Ponzi scheme.

Vassallo has pleaded not guilty.

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