Anthony David Flores, Dr. Mark Sawusch, Anna Rene Moore (selfie image via Dr. Todd Grande/YouTube screengrab)
A 47-year-old Fresno, California, hairstylist charged with bilking a mentally ill eye doctor out of millions of dollars, drugging the since-deceased man with LSD as he did so, pleaded guilty to nine felony offenses Thursday in federal court.
Anthony Flores, a hairstylist also known as Anton David, pleaded guilty to defrauding Dr. Mark Sawusch with the help of 40-year-old actress and yoga studio owner Anna Rene Moore, Flores’ girlfriend at the time of the admitted crimes.
According to the plea agreement, Flores admitted to two counts each of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering, and one count each for “engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity,” mail fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy — admissions that came nearly two months after his co-defendant Moore pleaded guilty on Aug. 28 to seven felonies (the same charges minus two wire fraud counts).
The factual basis of the plea detailed that Flores and Moore met Dr. Sawusch — “a wealthy ophthalmologist and investor, with a history of mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder” — over the summer of 2017. The admitted felons almost immediately took advantage of that “chance” meeting to defraud the victim when he was at his most vulnerable, even taking up residence rent-free in Sawusch’s Malibu beach house while styling themselves as caregivers amid the doctor’s deteriorating mental state.
“Defendants first met the victim by chance, at a Los Angeles-area ice cream shop on June 23, 2017. Defendants were visiting Los Angeles from Fresno at the time. After their initial encounter, defendants began staying with the victim at the victim’s beachfront home in Malibu, California (the ‘Beach House’),” the plea agreement said. “Within weeks of defendants first meeting him, the victim was arrested and hospitalized after he engaged in erratic and manic behavior in early July 2017. Defendants visited the victim in the hospital and assisted with his discharge from the hospital in July 2017. Defendants continued to live with the victim until around July 20, 2017, when the victim evicted defendants from the Beach House during a manic episode. Afterward, defendants returned to Fresno.”
After the doctor was arrested “on three separate occasions for bizarre behavior,” the defendants got him to sign over his powers of attorney and let them manage his finances.
“Defendant Flores told the victim on the recorded jail calls that it would be a ‘very limited’ power of attorney and only used to manage the victim’s affairs while he was in custody and then post bail,” the court documents said. “Defendant Flores told the victim that he was ‘welcome’ to ‘get rid’ of it as soon as the victim was released from custody.”
All of that was a lie, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The defendants went on to enrich themselves to the tune of more than $2.7 million while ensuring that the victim used LSD, marijuana and mushrooms after the doctor “began a series of extensive ketamine infusion treatments for treatment of his depression.”
“From September 2017 to May 2018, Flores and Moore lived with the victim, diverted the victim’s funds to their own bank accounts, isolated the victim from his family and longtime friends, and provided the victim with drugs, including marijuana and LSD,” the DOJ said. “In the final days of the victim’s life in May 2018, Flores and Moore gave the victim LSD, which caused his mental state to severely deteriorate. While the victim was under the influence of LSD, Flores caused the two-step authentication feature on the victim’s $60-million online brokerage account to be changed after previously having changed the phone number listed on the account from the victim’s phone number to his own phone number.”
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Sawusch died at his Malibu beach house at the age of 57 in May 2018, but that didn’t stop Flores and Moore from continuing their financial crime spree. The feds said the fraudsters went after as much as $20 million more of the victim’s fortune and that they began pursuing that money immediately after the doctor died. From the plea agreement:
The day after the victim’s death, defendant Flores had a private phone call with his mother, during which they discussed what should be said about the victim’s death and how to leverage the situation. Defendant Flores took notes during this call, and he texted defendant Moore the following notes from the call, “Good friend under difficult circumstances . . . We bonded and he trusted me . . . With a promise that I be promised a monetary amount he said take care of the [h]ouse and I want to you 20million.” Defendant Flores then conferenced defendant Moore into the call with defendant Flores and his mother. Defendant Flores’s mother expressed concern that defendant Flores would be held criminally responsible for the victim’s death, and she told defendant Moore that they were counting on her to ensure that defendant Flores was not held responsible for the victim’s death.
Over the summer of 2018, however, Sawusch’s family members finally caught on to the massive fraud, as Flores and Moore were still living in the Malibu beach house. Notably, Sawusch’s family wasn’t even aware of how wealthy he was — and Flores took advantage of this.
“Defendants continued to live at the Beach House for several weeks following the victim’s death until the victim’s family threatened legal action if defendants refused to leave,” the plea agreement said. “Around late June and July 2018, the victim’s family learned of the transfers made to defendant Flores’s accounts immediately before and after the victim’s death. Before that time, the victim’s family had no knowledge of the victim’s true wealth.”
The civil lawsuits that were filed in the California courts laid bare just how low one can go, as false creditor’s claims Flores filed against Sawusch’s estate — claims Moore “knowingly participated in” — asserted power of attorney, fake business deals, and false promises entitled him to the contested millions.
The lies culminated with the false claim that Sawusch, in a throwaway remark on Christmas Day in 2017, promised Flores and Moore one-third of his estate and the Malibu beach house. The scenario, as recounted in court documents:
After Flores and Moore’s scheme came crashing down over the course of the litigation, the former couple withdrew the fake creditor’s claims against the estate as part of a settlement. In early 2023, the defendants were greeted with grand jury indictments.
Both defendants are on track for sentencing in early 2024. While Moore’s hearing is set for Jan. 22, Flores’ hearing is expected to take place on Feb. 26.
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