What is next for Opelika’s infamous felon?
BY MICHELLE KEY
After being behind bars since his arrest in Bryan, Texas, on June 20, 2018, Kyle Sandler, former owner and founder of the Round house LLC, in Opelika, has been released from federal custody and is living in a shelter in Montgomery.
He was eligible for early release due to The First Step Act of 2018 which allows eligible inmates the opportunity to earn 10 to 15 days of time credits for every 30 days of successful participation in Evidence Based Recidivism Reduction Programs and Productive Activities. According to Sandler, he completed more than 50 of these programs and activities. Former President Donald Trump signed the Act into law on Dec. 21, 2018.
In August 2018, Sandler pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud in federal court. In 2019, he was sentenced to serve 63 months in federal prison with three years of supervised release after serving his sentence. He was also ordered to pay more than $1.9 million in restitution to those whom he defrauded.
Sandler formed The Roundhouse LLC in October 2014, with the hopes of creating a “hub for Opelika start-ups.” The business first operated out of The Depot on Railroad Avenue and moved into the old Woolsworth building on S. 8th Street in 2016.
Sandler was actively “soliciting and accepting more than $1.8 million dollars from more than 50 investors in a scheme to defraud them,” according to an excerpt from the release from the Middle District of Alabama’s U.S. Attorney Office in 2018. Funds he obtained from those investors were instead used for “personal expenses such as childcare services, rent payments, purchases of automobiles and other personal needs,” leaving many with no return on their investment.
Sandler also concocted erroneous stories regarding his background to deceive investors, claiming to be a successful entrepreneur and “employee #240” at Google, an assertion that Google representatives confirmed to The Observer staff as false in December 2016.
In 2020, HBO Max created a docuseries called Generation Hustle. Sandler and his con of the people of Opelika were the topic of episode nine out of 10.
Sandler was released on Feb. 16, after serving just a few days under three years and eight months. He is on federal probation for three years, which he is currently serving in a shelter for convicted felons in Montgomery.
Sandler told The Observer that he plans to get a job and start working to pay restitution to his victims.
“Obviously, [I want] to pay my restitution back,” he said. “I am going to get a regular, normal person job.”
He said he is committed to doing community service, even though it was not a part of his sentencing.
He said that he is hoping to get a transfer to Florida at some point in the near future and is working towards that goal at this time.
WHAT HE SAID HE LEARNED
Sandler said that biggest lessons he learned from being behind bars for more than three years is the need for accountability and transparency.
“We were doing something very positive [the creation of the small business incubator] for the community,” Sandler said. “But I became dishonest and I started stealing the money. A lot of it was ego driven and greed driven … Every time I did anything [positive] I was getting accolades and pats on the back, [so then] when I could not do something organically to earn that praise, I just made it up.”
By fall of 2016, Sandler said he was well aware that he would be found out eventually, but he said he got carried away with greed and that there was no stopping at that point.
“It creates its own high,” Sandler said.
Sandler said he knows that people in Opelika have no reason to believe anything that he says but he does want to apologize for his actions.
“I am extremely sorry and I will be spending the rest of my life being transparent and paying the people of Opelika back and showing that my actions are going to match my words,” he said. “The only person I blame for any of this is obviously myself; I take full responsibility for it.”
He said that he has a lot of apologies to make, and he does not want to single out any particular investor because he is sorry to all of them, but he did want to specifically take this opportunity to apologize to at least one person. “I really, really want to verbalize my apology to Emily Baas.” Baas worked closely with Sandler as the community manager of Roundhouse.
As word spread of his release, people took to social media, text and email with comments ranging from “I support his release if he has done his time,” to “He deserves to stay in prison for forever.”
As to whether or not, Sandler would be welcome back in Opelika, “I hope he has sense enough not to come back to this area,” was what one person had to say in a Facebook post.
Several people questioned Sandler’s sincerity with one Facebook commentor posting “Once a con, will always be a con” while others said that they “look forward to seeing your words and actions meet. We hope that your experiences have transformed you …”
On Monday, Sandler was defending the creation of a go-fund-me account for Sandler but by Tuesday afternoon, the go-fund-me account had been taken down.