A convicted Southern California con artist pleads guilty in an $18M cannabis scam


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A convicted California con artist has pleaded guilty in another scam, admitting that he swindled investors out of more than $18 million by concocting phoney cannabis businesses shortly after being released from prison in a prior criminal case, federal prosecutors said.

Mark Roy Anderson, 69, pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of wire fraud after investigators said he lured his victims with false claims that he ran companies that invested in hemp farms and cannabis-infused retail products, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

He launched his sham marijuana businesses, including one called Harvest Farm Group, immediately after his May 2019 release from a Texas prison where he had served more than 11 years for an oil investment scam, officials said.

“Anderson attempted to maintain a veneer of trustworthiness by taking steps to assure investors Harvest Farm Group was legitimate and he was not the ‘Mark Roy Anderson’ with multiple prior fraud convictions,” the statement says. “Anderson concealed that he had been convicted of multiple federal and state felony crimes, including mail fraud, wire fraud, grand theft, forgery, preparing false evidence, and money laundering.”

The FBI said Anderson persuaded people to invest by falsely representing that he owned and operated a hemp farm in Kern County, California. He also lied that he had already completed successful and profitable harvests of hemp from the farm, which the FBI said did not exist.

As part of a plea agreement, Anderson has agreed to forfeit his ill-gotten gains from the schemes, including a $1.3 million gated home in Ojai, California, and 15 cars, including a Ferrari, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Anderson, a disbarred lawyer from Beverly Hills, has a court hearing set for Aug. 23. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each count.