Feds Say Accused Swindler Lied About It All: Money, Trump, and Cancer

Justin Rohrlich
·12 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

Christine Favara Anderson loved to brag about her success. The founder and CEO of an independent publishing house, she told people she was flush with $60 million in MGM stock that Kirk Kerkorian gifted to her, and she spoke of flying in the casino resort’s private jet. She talked of being an adviser to former President Donald Trump, was tight with Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, and maintained a close friendship with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

She was just as open about the state of her health: She told people she was battling stage 4 cancer, that surgery had failed to stop the march of the malignant cells, that she was on the brink of death.

“I went to the specialist today and we have good news. Although the tumor is inoperable, it is a good candidate for radiation. And is slow growing,” she wrote in a 2015 email to friends and associates that was obtained by The Daily Beast. “I will begin treatment on January 4th for seven weeks. I am suspecting since its [sic] just radiation I will be tired but not sick, so at this time I don’t anticipate a change in my schedule but I will keep you posted.”

But none of it was true, say prosecutors.

Anderson—who previously spent five years in federal prison for securities fraud—is now facing federal wire fraud charges, accused of ripping off aspiring authors and duping a close friend out of $1 million. Anderson is also perfectly healthy, according to the FBI, which says Anderson’s vast wealth and relationships with the rich and famous were completely made up. Anderson is now detained in a Virginia jail. Her court-appointed lawyers, Don Pender and Erin Trodden, did not respond to requests for comment.

But her alleged victims have plenty to say.

“I’m the one who opened the book on this,” Robert Brigande, who is identified in court papers as a victim by his initials, told The Daily Beast. “Excuse my French, but I’m like a dog with a bone—this bitch was not gonna get away with it.”

Anderson’s alleged scheme began a year or so after she self-published a memoir in 2013 about mental illness, which is available for sale on Amazon, titled Forever Different: A Memoir of One Woman’s Journey Living with Bipolar Disorder, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by FBI Special Agent Jane Collins.

Anderson, who claims to have been orphaned at the age of 9, allegedly stole from numerous authors, taking their money up front and never delivering what she promised. If they were lucky enough to sell enough books to generate royalties, the affidavit says, Anderson kept it all for herself.

When Krys Fenner—an author of young adult, romance, and “urban fantasy” novels—was offered a contract from Sage Wisdom Publishing in 2014, she signed it immediately.

Fenner says Anderson told her to pay $1,000 upfront for her “hybrid publisher” services—a sort of “assisted self-publishing” concept somewhere between traditional publishing, in which the book company pays the author, and a vanity press, where the author pays the whole bill. She allegedly told Fenner she would copyright the book for her, launch a promotional campaign, publish it online, and print physical copies for sale in major retailers including Target, Walmart, and Costco. They would then split the profit.

The cost of self-publishing a book can run into the thousands, and Fenner thought Anderson’s price seemed reasonable. But Fenner says Anderson never did any of the things she promised, and she never saw a dime in royalties.

“I didn’t do enough research on her beforehand,” Fenner told The Daily Beast. “I was way too excited about the fact that a publisher was interested in my book at all.”

When pressed, Anderson always had an excuse. In one instance, Anderson allegedly told an author identified in court filings as “J.T.” that her $10,000 royalty payment was late because she had “emergency surgery” and was diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer, with “8 weeks of chemo and radiation ahead of me.” Eight weeks later, Anderson told J.T. in an email that she “just got in from an assessment today and was told the cancer has spread to the lining of my stomach.”

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Among the other reasons Anderson gave writers to explain why payments weren’t forthcoming, says a criminal complaint filed in federal court: She was spending time with Morgan Freeman; her assistant stole her credit card; the Patriot Act put a hold on “seven-figure wires”; checks she needed to provide funds were coming by private plane, but there was a “wheel issue” and the plane was fogged in at the airport; and, once, religious holidays had “created a wire backlog.”

Marti Melville, an author who writes novels about pirates, told The Daily Beast that Anderson bounced a $6,500 royalty check she sent after a successful book signing event on Catalina Island in California. Echoing the allegations in the FBI affidavit, Melville said Anderson first blamed the issue on another writer, “then she blamed it on something else, and then she blamed it on something else.”

“She said she’d send it as a wire transfer,” recalled Melville, who said she had cashed the check at her own bank before finding out it was no good. “Never sent it. I wound up having to pay back my bank the $6,500.”

After a number of other similar experiences with Anderson, Melville decided to go to the police. When she didn’t hear anything back, she contacted the FBI.

“She’s got to go down,” Melville remembers thinking. “She’s bad news.”

An anonymous client of Anderson vented on RipoffReport.com in 2018: “To Christine: You can keep running but you CANNOT HIDE. We will find you, report you and make sure people know who you really are until you draw your last breath on this planet. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.”

If anyone questioned Anderson, her former clients say, she was prone to lashing out. In a 2016 email reviewed by The Daily Beast, Anderson told her stable of writers: “The financial situation will not be resolved until the end of the month. You are not getting my attorney’s contact information or my accountant’s information so you can berate them and bitch at them... I am fighting for my life and if you lack the compassion to understand that then let me know and I will be happy to un-publish you and let you move on. Stop acting like heartless human beings… But if you continue to compromise my health with your bullshit I will just close up shop, its [sic] not worth my life. Understood. Just like you don’t care about what I am going through I don’t care about what your [sic] going through. I donb’t [sic] want to hear it.”

According to the FBI, Roberta Grimes, a retired Texas attorney who claims to be in regular contact with the dead, unwittingly ran interference for Anderson while portraying herself as, variously, Anderson’s lawyer, adviser, agent, or representative. (The FBI says no actual attorney-client relationship existed between Anderson and Grimes, who no longer practices law.)

In emails between one writer, identified in court filings as “S.W.,” and Grimes, who is identified in court records as “R.G.,” Grimes attempts to dispel any misgivings S.W. may have after Anderson bounced a $3,000 check.

“I gather that you think that I have been lying to you, or else I am deeply deluded [about Anderson]!” Grimes wrote to S.W., who severed her relationship with Anderson in 2017. “But actually, I spent a good deal of time in the beginning testing and checking. That’s what happens when you work with someone whose story is literally unbelievable... but all true.”

In a 2018 blog post, one of Anderson’s alleged victims, an author and self-proclaimed medium named Susanne Wilson, tried to sound a warning about the two women.

“Roberta Grimes defends her because she believes Christine Favara Anderson is going to introduce Roberta Grimes to President Trump, and he will donate millions of dollars to Roberta’s charity to stop racism discrimination,” Wilson wrote. “Roberta has packed her bags to be picked up by the Trump jet multiple times over 16 months, only to have a last-minute ‘cancellation’ by Christine… And Christine Favara Anderson promised Roberta Grimes that either Donald Trump or Morgan Freeman would write the foreword to one of Roberta’s books; needless to say, that never happened, but it has kept Roberta by her side as Christine perpetrated more fraudulent acts so Christine can live on her victim’s money.”

The criminal complaint against Anderson says Grimes, who reportedly loaned Anderson some $1 million over the past several years, continues to believe she will receive $19 million upon Anderson’s “imminent” death from the cancer she doesn’t actually have, from her fortune that doesn’t actually exist.

“[A] review of Anderson’s bank accounts shows that she does not have vast wealth, but has little to no income, other than small royalties payments coming from Amazon,” the FBI affidavit says. “I also have reviewed her health records at University of Virginia Health, where she purports to others that she is receiving cancer treatment. According to her health records, she does not have cancer and does not report a history of having cancer.”

Grimes did not respond to a request for comment.

The charges against Anderson begin with a description of her alleged publishing scheme. But it was a series of fishy real estate ventures Anderson launched in 2019 that ultimately led to her arrest.

Brigande, a Los Angeles real estate broker identified in court filings as “R.B.,” said he first met Anderson in 2003. In early 2020, a friend told him, “You’re not going to believe this—Christine has stage 4 cancer. You really should call her.”

So he did. Brigande headed east to see Anderson in Virginia, where she was living and supposedly investing in high end real estate. But the deals never closed because her payments never materialized, even though Anderson provided financial statements—which the FBI affidavit says were phony—that showed her to have millions in liquid assets.

After one of her many promised wires didn’t arrive, she said she had been unimaginably broken up over her pal Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash, according to the FBI affidavit. Another time, Anderson said she had been “called in unexpectedly” to help Trump with his State of the Union address, the affidavit states. In one aborted sale, the owners estimated their losses at nearly $500,000 due to lost rental bookings, attorney’s fees, and other expenses, it says.

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Brigande can’t quite figure out what Anderson’s objective was.

“There has to be something where she was profiting,” he said. “I can’t believe she was doing it just to do it.”

The day before Brigande was scheduled to head back to L.A., he said, Anderson claimed her funds had been frozen by the SEC and asked him to loan her $1,000. When Brigande told Anderson he didn’t have $1,000 on him, she suggested he send it to her via PayPal. A few days later, she paid Brigande back in full.

“It was a bait,” Brigande said. “She then said, ‘I still don’t have access [to my accounts]; send me more money and I’ll send you a check.’”

In all, Brigande gave Anderson $17,500 he never saw again, the complaint alleges.

“She took as much as my credit card would handle,” he said, adding in a tone of disbelief that he continued to buy Anderson’s stories until the bank finally told him there was no money in her accounts. “When the bank called me up and said, ‘This is a fraud,’ I said, ‘No it’s not.’ I was fighting with the bank.” In April 2020, Brigande called the police about Anderson. While they were investigating, Grimes’ daughter contacted local cops in Texas and the FBI.

That July, Anderson filed for bankruptcy, listing her total assets as $14,554 and her total liabilities as $234,735.48. A month later, the attorney for one of the property sellers Anderson left hanging wrote a letter to the bankruptcy court judge, noting the discrepancies between Anderson’s claim of being destitute and her nearly simultaneous claims of immense wealth. When Anderson found out about it, the FBI says, she sent a “blistering” email to “various relevant parties,” starting the message with “How dare all of you.” Anderson insisted that she really did have stage 4 stomach cancer, along with “plenty of proof” from her doctors.

In March 2021, Grimes’ daughter contacted law enforcement with concerns that her mother had been fleeced by Anderson and could no longer pay her bills, says the complaint against Anderson. She described Grimes’ trust in Anderson as “blind loyalty and [a] delusional state,” it explains.

In response, according to the complaint, Anderson told police she had been the victim of identity theft—something she had never reported before—and said she thought Grimes’ daughter was behind it.

Anderson said she was worried that she’d be criminally charged for a bad check she wrote to a Virginia mechanic for $3,900, which she insisted only happened because her identity had been stolen. On top of that, Anderson told investigators that she was on the brink of being evicted due to the issues with her accounts having been hijacked. Her advanced stomach cancer had metastasized into her spine and brain, Anderson said, without any proof to support it.

“I believe that Anderson made this fraudulent identity theft report to avoid criminal charges with the bad check and to avoid detection from [Grimes’] daughter’s complaint,” says the FBI affidavit.

Regardless, it continues, Grimes “continues to search for real estate on behalf of Anderson.”

For her part, Krys Fenner says she’s moved on and now handles all of her own affairs.

“I never made much,” she said. But, Fenner added, “I’ve made more publishing myself than I ever did with her.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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