Ex-chairman of Missouri Democratic Party pleads guilty in corruption case

A former Democratic Party chairman and prosecutor in Missouri was convicted of wire fraud Friday after admitting he exploited campaign funds for personal use, such as trips to California's wine country and Las Vegas.

The Kansas City Star reported that Mike Sanders pleaded guilty to the federal corruption charge, along with his aide and chief of staff, Calvin Williford, who also pleaded guilty to the same charge at a separate hearing that same day.

Williford also testified that the pair had a scheme involving a printing company that would create phone invoices and distribute the money to Williford and other workers on Sanders’ campaigns to bypass the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Sanders admitted to converting roughly $62,000 in campaign funds for personal use through a kickback scheme using an old high school friend named Steve Hill.

Hill told the Star in December that Sanders delivered checks to him for campaign work that he never performed, and would keep 10 percent while Sanders pocketed the rest for what he said was political purposes. Authorities later found that not to be the complete story, according to the paper.

For example, in one instance Sanders’ used $4,550 in kickback money he obtained from Hill in 2012 to pay his federal taxes from 2010, the paper reported.

Sanders, who served as the chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party from 2010 to 2013, cut off the checks in late 2013 after Hill told him the FBI was investigating, the paper reported. He also worked as a Jackson County prosecutor starting in 2002, prior to becoming county executive in 2007.

Williford and two other unidentified conspirators were also tied to the kickback scheme.

Both Williford and Sanders, who were released on signature bonds pending sentencing, could face up to five years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,000, according to the paper.

Click here for more from the Kansas City Star.