A founder of a failed Pasco biofuels company hasn’t given up trying to get the case against him dropped even though he’s already admitted to scheming to defraud investors of $10.4 million.
Michael Spitzauer, founder and CEO of Green Power, is trying to get his sentencing delayed to give his attorney time to investigate new reasons why the charges against Spitzauer should be dismissed.
He is supposed to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. at 10 a.m. March 25 at the Richland federal courthouse.
Spitzauer’s attorney, Christopher Black, asked for the sentencing to be postponed. A decision on the delay is expected later this week.
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Spitzauer admitted to two of the 45 charges by a federal grand jury as part of a plea bargain deal in January.
Spitzauer, 46, of Kennewick, was indicted on wire and bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, tax evasion and lying on his federal tax return. Many of the charges stem from his actions as Green Power’s CEO.
Spitzauer’s victims include companies and investors from Texas, Maryland, British Columbia, Ireland, Australia, China and Slovenia.
Mendoza already turned down a December attempt by Spitzauer to get the case against him dismissed based on claims that prosecutors illegally recorded his phone calls with his attorney, violating his Fifth and Sixth Amendment.
Black is asking for more time to continue to investigate those recorded jail phone calls. He wrote in court documents that he’s found new evidence based on records requests made to the Yakima County jail through a third party.
Mendoza ruled in December that the indictment against Spitzauer stood and prosecutors could use information from other recorded phone conversations at trial because prosecutors took significant measures to ensure that they didn’t listen in on calls between Spitzauer and Black.
Black wrote in court documents that he discovered a discrepancy in the testimony of Jeremy Welch, a Yakima County jail officer. He said the record requests showed Welch burned six copies of Spitzauer’s phone calls, not the one copy he testified about when Mendoza considered the dismissal request.
Black is asking that sentencing be postponed so he can decide whether he should ask Mendoza to reconsider his decision based on the new evidence. Black suggested continuing the case six to eight weeks in court documents.
Black wrote that prosecutors are not opposing his request to continue sentencing.
Under the plea deal with Spitzauer that has not been finalized, federal prosecutors will ask Mendoza to dismiss the other 43 charges at the time he’s sentenced.
Mendoza is not obligated to sentence Spitzauer to the four years agreed on in the plea bargain. But Spitzauer and prosecutors would have the option to withdraw from the deal if the sentence is less than or more than the recommendation.
Spitzauer has been in federal custody since December 2013.
Spitzauer would be ordered to repay his victims $10.4 million and pay the IRS $2.6 million. He would forfeit his 16-room Kennewick home, which would be sold to pay the investors and the IRS.
He also could be deported after serving his prison time. His legal permanent residency could be revoked based on the crimes. Spitzauer told Mendoza he would fight any deportation attempt.
If Spitzauer dies before paying the full amount, his heirs would be on the hook for repaying it.