ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A former New Mexico man who federal prosecutors say was “living large” in Santa Fe is now facing the possibility of prison time.
Federal prosecutors claim Matthew Sample is a “con artist” who was swindling New Mexican investors and others out of their money to support a lavish lifestyle, some of which was shown on a national television show.
Sample appeared in U.S. Federal Court in Albuquerque on Thursday for a sentencing hearing on fraud charges. According to a plea agreement filed with the court, Sample has agreed to plead guilty to one count of frauds and swindles, and one count of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with other possible penalties.
According to court documents, federal investigators say Sample was hooking his victims with the promise of returns on a hedge fund investment, which Sample called the “Lobo Volatility Fund.” Six victims are said to have invested nearly $1 million into the fund.
Federal investigators say instead of investing that cash, Sample was spending the money on himself. In court documents, prosecutors detailed what Sample did with the cash from one of his first investments.
“Within a matter of only 18 days, bank records prove that Sample had siphoned off all of R.L.’s investment and had spent the entire $50,000 on himself,” wrote prosecutors in Sample’s federal sentencing memorandum.
Federal investigators say one of the more lavish investments landed Sample’s now former home on HGTV’s “Home Hunters: On Vacation” reality TV series. The show featured Sample’s Santa Fe mountain-area home in 2012. During the episode, the television program’s host pointed to a wall covering in a specific room of Sample’s home.
The TV host said, “You notice this wall covering over there? It’s actually a hand-woven paper that has gold woven through it.”
“Real gold, dude! Of course!” exclaimed the TV host.
In court filings, prosecutors specifically called Sample a “con artist,” while one of the victims in the case called Sample “a Bernie Madoff clone.”
In the sentencing memorandum tied to Sample’s case, prosecutors wrote that Sample was, “stealing (victims) money to fund a lavish and self-indulgent lifestyle that he could never have otherwise afforded.” That money was supposed to be going into Sample’s “Lobo Volatility Fund.”
Emphasizing Sample’s lavish life, prosecutors also included photos from Sample’s Facebook page in their sentencing memorandum, showing Sample traveling all over the country to cities inlcudingSan Diego, Las Vegas, Chicago and Durham, North Carolina. Prosecutors said that the photos, “showed a young man clearly ‘living it up’ at ballparks, arenas, bars and at the beach.”
According to court documents, some of the victims drained their savings and retirement funds to invest in Sample’s hedge fun. It’s unclear if they’ll ever get all of their money back, but prosecutors are seeking restitution in the case. One victims wrote to the court, “the horror to know all we have worked and saved for is stolen by Mr. Sample was our worse financial nightmare ever!!”
Federal prosecutors began their sentencing hearing Thursday, but did not finish. The hearing is expected to pick up again sometime in February. The Feds have since stripped Sample of his license to work in the securities industry. He also no longer owns that house in Santa Fe, and is said to currently live in California.