The tragic end of Dr. Mark Sawusch’s life all started as he stood on line at a vegan ice cream shop in Venice Beach.
It was there that Sawusch, a brilliant, but troubled eye surgeon who struggled with bipolar disorder, met yoga gurus Anthony Flores and Anna Moore in the summer of 2017. It was a fateful encounter that would eventually lead to the doctor’s death less than a year later and the plundering of his vast fortune.
A hair stylist on film shoots, Flores sported long, flowing hair and a beard. His girlfriend, Anna Moore, was a pixie-like blond, trying to make it as an actress and singer. Both ran a yoga center in Fresno, Calif., and their spiritual vibe cast a spell on Sawusch, who had just days earlier been released from a mental health facility after suffering a breakdown. Within a week, the couple had moved into Sawusch’s multi-million dollar Malibu beachfront home to be his caretakers.
Sawusch called his home the Ark, perceiving it as a ship that protected him from the storms that had besieged his life. It was a safe haven from his overbearing mother, two failed marriages and the mental illness and alcoholism that had gotten the better of him by the time he met Flores and Moore.
The couple said they felt a connection to Sawusch and saw it as their mission to help him get his life in order. They offered to feed him healthy, vegan food, keep him away from alcohol and make sure he took his medication. But prosecutors say they were really grifters who had spotted an isolated and vulnerable man with a fortune worth more than $80 million.
In the final year of Sawusch’s life, Flores and Moore established a vice grip over the doctor’s psyche and finances. To keep him pacified, they fed him a steady diet of marijuana, LSD and ketamine, an animal tranquilizer that has shown promise as a treatment for severe depression. An army of massage therapists provided Sawusch with up to 10 hours of rub downs a day, all while Flores and Moore moved his money into accounts they controlled. His already strained relationship with his family grew even more distant.
The sinister scheme ended in tragedy in May 2018 when Sawusch, in the deep thrall of a severe manic episode, ingested a toxic mix of alcohol and ketamine and died in his living room. The terrifying storms that had plagued Mark Sawusch’s life had finally penetrated the sanctuary of his Ark.
The Ark: A Story of Death and Deceit in Malibu is a devastating true story that could have been ripped from the pages of a Ross Macdonald novel. It details Mark Sawusch’s brilliant rise from a teenage author of more than a dozen highly successful computer manuals to a Johns Hopkins-educated surgeon who developed patents, through his years-long collapse into mental illness, estrangement from his family and embrace of conspiracy theories. It also tracks the path of Flores and Moore from strivers following the Hollywood dream to classic California con artists wrapped in a phony shroud of spiritualism.
Book Rights Written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist/author Lukas Alpert
Lukas I. Alpert is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who writes about financial crime for MarketWatch. He has previously worked for the Wall Street Journal in the U.S. and Russia, the New York Post and Daily News and the Associated Press. His work has also appeared in Playboy, Maxim and Vice.