Franklin County changes locks at former Green Power property

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 6, 2014 

Franklin County has changed the locks on the doors and gates of the Port of Pasco property rented by a troubled, controversial biofuels company.

While the county is preparing to sell Green Power's personal property for nonpayment of property taxes, the company also faces eviction by the port.

Green Power, owned by CEO Michael Spitzauer, owes the county more than $58,000 for three years of back taxes from 2011-13 and 2014, according to the Franklin County Auditor's Office.

Spitzauer remains in federal custody after he was charged in December with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

He's accused of defrauding investors of at least $6.7 million in the past seven years. Some of the business dealings referred to in court documents were for Green Power.

U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle on Thursday granted a request by Spitzauer and federal prosecutors to postpone his trial until Nov. 12, according to court documents. The trial may take about 17 days.

Spitzauer and prosecutors also have requested the trial be held at the Richland federal courthouse, according to court documents.

Christopher Black, Spitzauer's Seattle attorney, explained in court documents that more time was needed to prepare for the complex case, because Spitzauer is accused of defrauding multiple victims in multiple countries. The trial was initially scheduled to start Feb. 18.

Black said in court documents that federal prosecutors already have produced more than 60,000 pages of discovery, including records from prior court cases, correspondence, tax records, extensive financial records, phone and internet records, law enforcement reports and records of interviews and dispositions. The discovery documents are expected to exceed 100,000 pages.

Spitzauer agreed to waive his right to a speedy trial, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, a firm date has not yet been set to sell Green Power's property at the facility rented by the company at Port of Pasco's Big Pasco Industrial Park.

Andrew Hicks, Franklin County deputy treasurer, said the date will be posted 10 days before the auction. Green Power still could pay the taxes and regain possession of its property, he said. But the county does not need to wait until the port's eviction process is complete.

The unfinished plant that Spitzauer claimed would turn municipal garbage into biofuels is among the equipment the county has taken into its possession.

The state Department of Ecology shut down the unfinished facility in 2009 because he lacked proper air quality permits. Spitzauer told the Herald multiple times that he would get the permits, but Ecology officials said they did not receive an application during the past three years.

Green Power, which has been a port tenant since May 2007, is being evicted for the third time.

Dan Hultgrenn, the Port of Pasco's attorney, told port commissioners recently that the port can use the $300,000 deposit it has from Green Power to pay for rent and court costs in the eviction process. The company had prepaid its rent to the port through December 2013.

The lease costs are about $27,000 a month, Sam Good, the port's director of properties and development, recently told commissioners.

Officials expect the port has a large enough deposit to cover eviction expenses.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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