Cary Lee Peterson — the creator of a purportedly pro-Bernie Sanders super PAC that collected nearly $50,000 from “James Bond” actor Daniel Craig — was arrested Sunday in San Francisco by the FBI and charged with securities fraud, Department of Justice officials announced.
Peterson “defrauded investors by issuing false filings and press releases touting its purportedly lucrative — but wholly fictitious — business deals,” according to one of the government’s complaints against him.
In all, the U.S. Attorney’s Office criminally charged Peterson with one count of securities fraud and two of false certification.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also filed a civil complaint against Peterson in federal court in New Jersey alleging multiple counts of securities fraud.
Government officials say Peterson, who could not immediately be reached for comment, obtained more than $100,000 from his actions.
Peterson is currently in federal custody, scheduled to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday for a detention hearing, said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
Peterson’s latest run-in with law enforcement — he has a previous arrest and two active arrest warrants in Arizona — stems from activities that predate his involvement in 2016 presidential politics.
Reached by the Center for Public Integrity, Brad Deutsch, general counsel of Sanders’ presidential campaign, said he was “not at all surprised” by the news of Peterson’s arrest.
Last year, Sanders’ campaign twice sent Peterson cease-and-desist letters, arguing that his super PAC was “illegal” and “causing harmful confusion for supporters of Senator Sanders’ campaign,” as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.
Peterson has largely ignored the letters' demands, which include taking down his websites and social media pages.
Peterson’s foray into the 2016 White House race came in February 2015, when he launched his super PAC, then called Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016. He later renamed it “Americans Socially United” to comply with federal rules barring supportive political committees from using candidates’ names without authorization.
As a super PAC, Americans Socially United can collect donations in unlimited amounts from individuals, corporations and labor unions to spend — independently — in support of Sanders’ campaign.
As of June 30, 2015, Americans Socially United was about $50,000 in debt, according to its most recent campaign finance report. That’s after it reported raising about $100,000 from dozens of donors, including some who told the Center for Public Integrity they thought they were donating to Sanders’ own campaign.
Americans Socially United failed to file a report, due in January, that would have detailed its fundraising and expenses during the second half of 2015.
A donation of $47,300 from Craig, who has portrayed James Bond in movies during the last decade, came in July, when he also gave $2,700 directly to Sanders presidential campaign. Laura Symons, Craig’s publicist, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Because Peterson has not filed mandatory campaign finance reports covering the second half of 2015, it’s unknown how many other donors have been taken in by Peterson.