CEO of Pasco biofuels company in more hot water

May 23, 2014 

Green Power Sun

March 10, 2014 - The Port of Pasco is evicting Green Power, a tenant since 2007, from this warehouse in the Big Pasco Industrial Park. The company's CEO is facing federal criminal fraud charges and the company has filed for bankruptcy with an estimated $30.5 million in debts.

PAUL T. ERICKSON — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Embattled Green Power CEO Michael Spitzauer is facing even more charges in federal court.

Federal prosecutors recently amended the indictment against Spitzauer to add bank fraud, filing a false tax return and additional instances of wire fraud. He was already charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

Spitzauer, the founder of the troubled Pasco biofuels company, remains in federal custody awaiting a trial this fall.

The new allegations bring the amount that Spitzauer is accused of defrauding up to $7.6 million and the number of alleged victims up to eight, including seven alleged victims of fraud and one of identity theft.

Spitzauer’s troubles have not been limited to criminal charges. Green Power also is crumbling, with the Port of Pasco evicting the company from its only physical location and Tri-City creditors attempting to foreclose on the company’s personal property.

That foreclosure is temporarily on hold after Judith Calhoun, the company’s acting CEO, filed for bankruptcy protection for a second time.

However, the case -- like the previous one -- is likely to be dismissed next week.

Spitzauer and Green Power have debts in excess of $36 million. Only two of his alleged fraud victims have civil court judgments in place for the amounts Spitzauer allegedly stole.

New allegations include that Spitzauer apparently defrauded a Maryland investor in September and October as part of his business dealings with Green Power.

At that time, Spitzauer was aware he was facing federal charges, according to court documents.

Spitzauer allegedly used the $165,000 he received from the Maryland investor on personal expenses and sent very little to Senegal, where they were supposed to have a business deal on a biofuels plant.

Those personal expenses include $5,000 for his criminal defense attorney, $40,000 on his Kennewick home’s mortgage, $28,000 in cash, utility and AT&T bills, health insurance, sports tickets, hotel bills and items from Louis Vuitton, a high-end fashion brand.

Federal prosecutors also said Spitzauer created counterfeit checks from a JPMorgan Chase bank account belonging to a Lebanese citizen living in Spain whom Spitzauer had authorized to negotiate Green Power business deals, according to court documents.

Spitzauer made it appear that the bank account belonged to Prarex International -- a company he owns -- and used counterfeit checks in December 2011 and January 2012 to withdraw almost $73,000 to pay a credit card account belonging to Prarex International, documents said.

Spitzauer also lied on federal tax returns he filed in October for the 2007-09 tax years, claiming he received no income, documents said. He received almost $1 million in 2007 from an Australian resident whom he allegedly defrauded in a false bank stock deal and almost $3.5 million in 2009 from allegedly defrauding three companies from Ireland, Canada and Texas.

Spitzauer, who emigrated from Austria to the U.S. shortly after his release from an Austrian prison, could be deported if he is convicted because he is a legal permanent resident, not a citizen. Federal prosecutors are asking him to forfeit $4.9 million involved in the alleged wire fraud and money laundering, as well as his $1 million, 16-room Kennewick home.

If found guilty, he could face 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine in connection with bank fraud and three years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine in connection with filing a false tax return.

If found guilty on the earlier charges, he could face up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine in connection with wire fraud, two years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine in connection with identity theft, and 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to twice the amount of criminally derived proceeds in connection with money laundering.

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

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