Sausalito wine arsonist sprung from prison early due to health issues

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A swanky wine connoisseur who was sentenced to 27 years in prison for embezzling his client’s premium bottles, later sparking an inferno in his warehouse that resulted in estimated damages of over $200 Million, has been released from federal prison 14 years early.

Chief US District Judge Kimberly Mueller approved a motion for the compassionate release of Mark C. Anderson, 73, in a 6-page order signed on Friday, citing his “long and complicated” medical history that puts him at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 in prison.

According to Anderson’s attorneys, he’s been in-and-out of the hospital as of late, with new diagnoses for congestive heart failure and kidney disease – both of which increase the likelihood of succumbing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravages the federal prison system, including the facility where Anderson was incarcerated.

“The Warden at [FCI] Terminal Island has recently declared that the institution will be operating under ‘Code Red’ COVID-19 restrictions,” his lawyers wrote in the motion. “Mr. Anderson reports that the Code Red status has been changed at times and that the prison is now desperately overcrowded.”

Anderson also has a respiratory disorder, staph infection in his legs, and symptoms of long COVID such as pneumonia, mental confusion, and severe tremors.

“It is now well-established that many aspects of Anderson’s health profile raise his risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” Mueller wrote in her order. “Anderson therefore remains at risk of severe illness if reinfected with COVID-19.”

Anderson will be released from prison as soon as prison officials can ensure his safe release, however, his 60 months of supervised release will remain in place, Mueller wrote.

The former wine merchant pled guilty to federal arson and fraud charges in 2009 shortly before he was slated to go to trial. Anderson ran a business, Sausalito Cellars, where he stored high-price bottles of wine for collectors in exchange for a fee.

Beginning in 2001, prosecutors said, Anderson removed labels from his clients’ wine boxes and loaded them into a van, selling them to two Bay Area wine retailers about once a week for over $700,000 in profit, lying to business associates that he was selling the wine at the request of his clients.

On October 12, 2005, a month after state prosecutors in Marin County charged him with embezzlement, Anderson used gasoline-soaked rags to set a fire in Bay 14 of the Wines Central warehouse, where he kept his clients’ product. Prosecutors said he was the only person working in Bay 14 that day and was set to be evicted for failing to pay several months of back rent.

According to a re-entry plan submitted to the court, Anderson will live at the Blessings Care Room and Board on 40th Street in Sacramento, where he will have a room and daily meals within walking distance of the UC Davis Medical Center, where he will get healthcare.

The Saint Vincent De Paul Society wrote a letter to the court agreeing to sponsor Anderson’s monthly rent for up to three months until he gets his social security payments reinstated. He plans to get a job in the administrative field after his health conditions stabilize.

Attorney Mark Reichel, who once represented Anderson, remarked on his one-time client’s poor health, even in 2009 before he was sentenced.

“Mr. Anderson was in poor health before he was sentenced, and I can only imagine his health did not improve,” Reichel said. “It was certainly an extremely interesting case.”

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