You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Former Biologist Admits to Stealing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars from San Diego Zoo

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Huie (619) 546-7053


SAN DIEGO ­– Matthew John Anderson, a former San Diego Zoo biologist, pleaded guilty in federal court today, admitting he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the world-renowned institution.

Anderson worked for the zoo for over 17 years, starting as a research fellow and ultimately serving as the Director of Behavioral Biology for the zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research until the zoo terminated his employment in late 2017. 

In his plea agreement, Anderson admitted that over the course of approximately eight years – from December 2008 to October 2016 – he worked to create false invoices in the names of various purported vendors which were presented to the zoo for payment. The zoo paid the invoices, in some cases sending money to accounts controlled by Anderson, and in others sending payments to third parties who kicked back the bulk of the payments to Anderson. Anderson admitted to creating 35 bogus invoices and stealing over $236,000 in total.

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer praised the work of FBI agents and prosecutor Robert Huie. “We will hold accountable those who seek to steal and defraud, including all those who selfishly steal from our cherished San Diego institutions.”

“When an employee is elevated to a position of leadership, it is a sign of that company’s trust in the integrity and honesty of that person,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Scott Brunner. “When an employee violates that trust and abuses their position to defraud and steal money for personal benefit, the FBI stands ready to hold them accountable.”

Sentencing is scheduled for June 8, 2020 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns.   

DEFENDANT                                               Case No. 20-CR-0812-LAB 

Matthew John Anderson                                 Ramona, California                 Age: 49


Theft or conversion concerning programs receiving federal funds – 18 U.S.C. § 666

Maximum penalty: Ten years in prison and $250,000 fine


Federal Bureau of Investigation


Press Release Number: 
Updated March 5, 2020