Former Jackson County executive placed on interim suspension following wire fraud plea

By Karen Kidd | Feb 23, 2018

Independence attorney and former Jackson County Executive Michael D. Sanders has been placed on interim suspension following a Feb. 20 Missouri Supreme Court ruling after his guilty plea last month to a wire fraud charge.

"It is ordered that respondent, Michael D. Sanders, be ... suspended from the practice of law pending the final disposition of any disciplinary proceeding based upon such conviction or misconduct that resulted in said conviction," the high court's brief order said.

Sanders, who will be 51 in March, also was ordered to pay costs.

Sanders, who was the Missouri Democratic Party chairman from 2011 until 2013, resigned as county executive in December 2015 after nine years in that position.

On Jan. 26, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the guilty pleas of Sanders and his former chief of staff Calvin Williford, of St. Joseph, to conspiracy to defraud political campaign funds, according to a news release issued that day.  

Both men each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before a U.S. District judge for Missouri's Western District, according to the release.

Sanders was elected Jackson County executive in January 2007, having earlier been elected Jackson County prosecuting attorney, according to information included in the Justice Department's news release. Williford was Sanders' public affairs director during his time as county prosecuting attorney, according to the release.

"Sanders and Williford defrauded political committees with which Sanders was affiliated by converting campaign contributions for their personal use," the release said. "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, 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."

The case against Sanders and Williford was investigated by the FBI's Kansas City Division and prosecuted by attorneys Lauren Bell and Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s public integrity section, according to the Justice Department release.

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