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Beverly Hills scammer pleads guilty to $18-million cannabis con

A convicted Beverly Hills con artist with a long history of swindles pleaded guilty to another one Friday, admitting that he duped investors out of more than $18 million by concocting a sham cannabis empire while completing a sentence in a prior criminal case.

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Mark Roy Anderson, 69, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He duped his victims with false claims that he ran companies invested in hemp farms and cannabis-infused retail products, as well as a sham bottling business.

Anderson, his investors discovered, is a convicted con artist who started swindling people at least three decades ago. He launched his purported hemp business immediately after his May 2019 release from the federal prison in Texas where he had served more than 11 years for an oil investment scam, federal authorities said.

In the first scheme he pleaded guilty to Friday, Anderson tricked investors in 2020 and 2021 into providing funding for his company, called Harvest Farm Group, to harvest and process hemp grown on his farm into medical-grade cannabidiol (CBD) isolate — a chemical found in marijuana — to be sold for a substantial profit.

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

He also falsely said he was using his own machinery and equipment to convert the hemp into CBD isolate and Delta 8, a psychoactive substance that, like CBD isolate, could be used in consumer products ranging from olive oil to body cream, federal officials said.

In the second scheme, Anderson deceived investors from April 2021 to May 2023 by soliciting money for sham companies Bio Pharma and Verta Bottling companies, by claiming that these businesses successfully manufactured, bottled, and packaged commercial products.

Anderson falsely stated that his bottling companies owned and possessed millions of dollars’ worth of assets, including hemp biomass, CBD isolate, CBD oil, manufacturing equipment and a lease for a warehouse to manufacture and sell its products.

Anderson used some of the money to buy a $1.3-million gated residence surrounded by citrus groves in Ojai, according to the FBI. He diverted another $2.3 million to personal expenses, including more than $650,000 for vintage and luxury automobiles, $13,000 for chartered private jet flights and $142,000 for merchandise from Williams-Sonoma, Ferragamo, Crate & Barrel and other retailers, the FBI alleged in a criminal complaint.

He has agreed to forfeit his ill-gotten gains from these schemes, including 15 cars — one of them a Ferrari — and his Ojai real estate.

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

Former Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report


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