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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Former county executive and chief of staff sentenced to prison

Michael Sanders defrauded political committees by converting campaign contributions for his personal use along with his then-chief of staff Calvin Williford.

Image Credit: Allison Long/The Star

After pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud political campaign funds, the former County Executive for Jackson County, Missouri and his former chief of staff were sentenced to 27 months and six months in prison, respectively, for engaging in a scheme to steal campaign contributions. After stealing campaign funds to pay for gambling trips, they misappropriated money by directing political committees to issue checks to people. affiliated with straw donors, who performed little or no campaign-related work.

While serving as the elected County Executive for Jackson County from January 2007 until December 2015, Michael Sanders defrauded political committees by converting campaign contributions for his personal use along with his then-chief of staff Calvin Williford. Sanders and Williford misappropriated the money by directing the political committees to issue checks to certain individuals who performed little or no campaign-related work.

Instead of performing their political duties, the individuals cashed the checks and then returned a portion of the money to Sanders or Williford, who used the cash at times to pay for personal expenses. Those expenses included pleasure trips to California and Las Vegas.

On January 26, Sanders and Williford each pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri sentenced Sanders to 27 months in federal prison. On Thursday, Judge Ketchmark sentenced Williford to six months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered him to forfeit $36.000, an amount that represents $2,000 stolen from campaign accounts for each of his 18 Vegas gambling trips.

Besides accompanying Sanders on these vacations, Williford stole an equal amount of campaign funds to cover his expenses. With the sentencing documents in Williford’s case remaining sealed, legal analysts believe he is cooperating with federal investigators.

Williford is scheduled to surrender on November 5, the same day that Sanders is scheduled to go to prison.

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