Handcuffs

A lawyer from California is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in a $6.2 million international fraud scheme that allegedly involved two key players in the Richmond area.

Stuart Jay Anderson, 52, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., is scheduled to be sentenced May 8 by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, who accepted the guilty plea Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in a scam that ran from 2014 until last year.

Anderson was charged separately from two Richmond-area men and a British man facing allegations of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the case.

James Michael Johnson, 68, of Richmond, and James Leonard Smith, 54, of Midlothian, pleaded not guilty and are set to be tried before a jury starting April 20. Brian Michael Bridge, 46, of London, the owner of Chimera Group Ltd., is a fugitive.

Bridge allegedly worked with Johnson and Smith in the Richmond area to operate an international “advance fee” scheme through Chimera Group Ltd. Authorities said that, generally, in advance payment schemes, promoters promise to pay the victims money later in exchange for an upfront advance payment.

The three allegedly approached people who were looking for high-yield investments and startup businesses in need of capital.

The indictment alleges that the defendants used escrow attorneys — Anderson among them — who were also part of the scheme to give the appearance that the victims’ money would be secure.

However, the grand jury alleged that once the victims’ money was received, the attorneys forwarded it from their escrow accounts to the defendants and affiliated persons.

Anderson on Tuesday was allowed to remain free pending sentencing.

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