Steven Masera and Mikaela Sanford formally faced federal racketeering charges Tuesday tied to a massive college admission scam in U.S. District Court in Sacramento and were freed on bond ahead of a Boston federal court appearance in two weeks.
Masera, 69, and Sanford, 32, both of Folsom, appeared in street clothes before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes to face single counts each of racketeering conspiracy. The count carries a maximum 20 years in federal prison plus a $250,000 fine or twice the gross profit taken from the illegal operation, Barnes said.
Masera and Sanford are two of 50 people indicted in the alleged scheme including William Rick Singer, the 59-year-old Sacramento man who federal investigators say ran a standardized test cheating racket through his college counseling business and non-profit.
Attorneys for Masera – until 2017 an accountant and financial officer for the Edge College and Career Network and Edge employee – and Sanford were not flight risks. Both are longtime area residents; Masera, with a wife of 34 years and two grown children. Neither had criminal records, attorneys said.
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Masera’s wife and family sat opposite Masera in the gallery. She addressed the court assuring Magistrate Barnes that her husband would honor the terms of the bond and make his court dates.
But Barnes ordered Masera to surrender his passport and put up $100,000 to be freed from custody. He was expected to be released within hours of the afternoon hearing, said Masera attorney Steven Plesser.
Masera’s wife and family sat in the gallery opposite Masera but did not speak to reporters.
Sanford will be freed on $50,000 bond and was told to give up her passport. Both are restricted to travel only within the boundaries of the court’s Eastern District – a territory roughly from the Oregon line to Bakersfield – and the Eastern District of Massachusetts where the two will face a Boston federal court judge March 25 on the government’s indictment there.
Barnes was clear from the bench: failure to appear for the Boston date would mean a trip back to jail in either California or Massachusetts and additional penalties, if convicted, up to and including 10 years in federal custody atop the initial offense.