Government & Politics

Former top Missouri Democrat faces up to five years in prison for campaign fund theft

Mike Sanders pleads guilty to corruption

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders left the federal courthouse in Kansas City in January after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. Prosecutors say that he and longtime aide Calvin Williford misused funds.
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Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders left the federal courthouse in Kansas City in January after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. Prosecutors say that he and longtime aide Calvin Williford misused funds.

Sentencing for former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is set for next month in federal court, nine months after he pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Sanders, whose resume also includes stints as county prosecutor and Missouri Democratic Party chairman, admitted to misusing tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds, some of which went for trips to California wine country and to pay his federal income taxes.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In his guilty plea, Sanders acknowledged converting $62,000 in political campaign funds into cash in a check-cashing scheme involving a disabled friend from high school, which The Star first reported in December.

While some of that cash went for political purposes, Sanders admitted using $15,000 to $40,000 of the cashed checks for personal use.

Federal prosecutors are asking that Sanders pay the government up to $40,000 as forfeiture of any personal gain. That’s in addition to any fine assessed.

Judge Roseann Ketchmark is set to pass sentence Sept. 19 at the federal courthouse in downtown Kansas City.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders engineered a kickback scheme while he was in office from 2010 to 2013, a participant has told The Star.

Sanders’ longtime friend and former chief of staff, Calvin Williford, is scheduled for sentencing the following day.

Williford also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, testifying that he and Sanders used campaign cash for gambling trips to Las Vegas and other personal purposes.

Prosecutors are asking that Williford forfeit as much as $50,000, in addition to any fine. He, too, faces as much as five years in federal prison.

Sanders resigned as county executive in early 2016, one year after winning re-election to his third, four-year term. At the time, he said he was leaving public service to spend more time with his family and return to private law practice.

Prior to becoming county executive in 2007, he was Jackson County prosecutor for four years.

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