Green Power CEO claims poverty even though company worth more than $10M

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldMarch 8, 2014 

The CEO of a troubled Pasco biofuels company says he doesn't have enough money to pay his attorney to defend him against charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

But federal prosecutors say Michael Spitzauer's family continues to live the high life while he's in federal custody in Yakima.

His company, Green Power, claims to have assets of more than $10 million, according to a recently filed bankruptcy case.

Judith Calhoun, Green Power's acting CEO and vice president of finance, is asking a bankruptcy judge to protect the company from more than $19.2 million in debts.

But a Herald investigation shows Spitzauer and Green Power racked up almost twice that in the past decade.

Public records show he owes more than $35 million to former employees, investors, credit card companies, Tri-City businesses, a cellphone company, the IRS and to state and to local governments.

Just a week ago, Franklin County auctioned off some of Green Power's equipment and tools to pay $58,700 in unpaid property taxes.

Spitzauer's court history, like his finances, is complex and lengthy, with more than 53 cases filed in U.S. District Court, federal bankruptcy courts on both sides of the state, Superior Court in King, Franklin and Benton counties and District Court in Benton and Franklin counties.

Federal prosecutors allege in court documents that Spitzauer has mastered using corporate entities and trusts to hold assets so they can be used to pay his personal expenses instead of being seized to pay his court judgments.

Spitzauer's $1 million home on Sunset Meadow Loop in Kennewick is owned by a trust company for his four children.

And the family's five cars -- a Cadillac Escalade, Hummer, Mercedes, Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger -- are owned by Prarex International, a company owned by Michael and Melissa Spitzauer.

When federal prosecutors suggested in court documents that the family sell the vehicles with a total value of about $100,000 to help pay for Spitzauer's defense, his Seattle-based attorney said Melissa Spitzauer and their two teenage sons need them for transportation on a daily basis.

A federal judge previously refused to allow Spitzauer to put the cars up for his bond so he could be released pending his trial.

Since Spitzauer has been in jail, his wife made a $20,000 cash payment on the family's 16-room house. But Melissa Spitzauer said in court documents she was able to make the payment only because of a one-time loan from a friend.

Federal prosecutors claim the mortgage payment might have been made using Green Power money. And they say that's not the only questionable spending.

They said the family lined a media room in the house with Seahawks football jerseys before the Super Bowl, bought three new Apple iPhones and purchased an expensive pair of Air Jordan athletic shoes for one son's birthday.

But Christopher Black, Spitzauer's attorney, said in court documents the family has had no income since Spitzauer was jailed in Yakima in December.

Spitzauer hired Black after he learned of the possible federal indictment a year ago. Black said in documents he has not been paid since the federal government filed the charges.

Spitzauer says the assets that federal prosecutors claim he has were spent or they never existed, according to court documents.

Sealed documents filed by Spitzauer with U.S. District Court apparently detail Spitzauer's expenses last year -- which Black says total the $228,000 that federal prosecutors identified as assets. It's unclear what the money was spent on.

Black claims the other items mentioned by prosecutors were bought years ago, aside from the cellphones, which were paid for by trading in old phones when changing cellphone service.

Separating Spitzauer's personal and business debts is no easy task.

In the bankruptcy case, Calhoun said they plan to dispute some of the $30.5 million in debts and interest that 14 creditors are claiming they are owed. She declined to go into detail.

However, each of Spitzauer's alleged victims in the criminal case also have received a civil court judgment against Spitzauer and Green Power.

For now, Green Power is shut down and Spitzauer's trial is set for Nov. 14. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

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