Former Jackson County executive will spend more than 2 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former County Executive Mike Sanders was sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years probation Wednesday for conspiracy to commit wire fraud related to inappropriate use of campaign donations.

Mike Sanders

Sanders read the following statement to the judge Wednesday:

"It is with much humility and true regret that I leave the court today. I blame no one else for the mistakes I have made and accept full personal responsibility for the inappropriate use of the campaign committees and their funds. I believe that the real test in life is not whether you fall down or stumble, but whether you pick yourself back up, and what you do afterwards that truly defines your character. I made mistakes, and today I'm paying the price. But I am going to work very hard to turn this situation into actions that are positive, constructive and meaningful, for my family, for myself and for this community."

In addition to his sentence the judge ordered that he pay back $40,000. He has already paid back $25,000.

The judge is also allowing Sanders to self surrender on Monday, Nov. 5.

Investigators say Sanders funneled money back to himself in a scheme in which his chief of staff, Calvin Williford, also pleaded guilty to in January.

Williford faces up to five years in prison, $250,000 fine, and three years supervised release.

During Williford's court appearance in January, it was also mentioned that Sanders and Williford took a trip to Las Vegas together using some of this money.

In December, the stunning allegations came to light that Sanders used Steve Hill, a longtime friend and quadriplegic who lives on disability, to pull off the illegal kickback scheme.

Hill told The Kansas City Star that Sanders gave him checks to cash from 2010 to 2013. FOX4 found Hill listed as an independent contractor on campaign finance forms for Sanders, supposedly conducting voter research. But Hill told the Star the only thing he did for Sanders was cash the checks, keep a little money and funnel most of it back to Sanders, who also chaired the Missouri Democratic Party from 2011 to 2013.

Sanders began his job as county executive in Nov. 2006 and was re-elected in 2010 and 2014.  He resigned abruptly in December 2015 during his third term as county executive, saying at the time that he wanted to spend more time with family.

In addition to serving as county executive, Sanders was Jackson County prosecutor and head of the Missouri Democratic Party.

Missouri Democratic Party Press Secretary Sam Newton told FOX4 in January the party has no ties to Sanders anymore, but "if wrongdoing was done, there should be justice."