Crime

Tri-City con man didn’t fake his ID, just learned his true identity, lawyer says

Michael Spitzhauer
Michael Spitzhauer Tri-City Herald

The attorney for a Tri-City con man said that his client learned while serving his latest prison term that he was not who he thought he was.

Michael Peter Spitzauer is accused of providing false information in an application for a U.S. passport while on probation for a case related to his former company, Green Power of Pasco.

He has been back in federal custody since last week and will remain in federal custody, currently the Benton County jail, a judge ruled Friday.

Spitzauer was sentenced to four years in prison in 2015, with credit for time served, and ordered to pay restitution of nearly $13 million to investors in the Pasco company and nearly $2.6 million to the IRS.

Less than two months after his release from prison in June, he applied for a U.S. passport, claiming to be a U.S. citizen and using a different name than in court documents.

Spitzauer discovered while in federal prison that his mother had an affair with James McCune and he was not the son of Rudolph Spitzauer, said his court-appointed attorney, Adam Pechtel, at a hearing in the Richland federal courthouse Friday.

IMG_Michael_Spitzauer_mu_3_1_PP3LHVR6_L93772446
Michael Spitzauer File MCT

Rather than being born in Austria as stated in previous documents, Spitzauer was born in El Paso, Texas, his attorney said.

He had legally changed his name and applied for a passport under the new name, Michael Peter Scott Spitzauer McCune, his attorney said.

Spitzhauer used the identification of Michael Scott McCune, born Jan. 5, 1967, to change his name, said Laurel Holland, assistant U.S. attorney.

But the Texas identification matched a baby who had lived only one day, she said. Other photos and records are consistent with Spitzhauer being born on a different date in Austria, she said.

“The government finds it interesting he only found information about his father while incarcerated,” Holland said.

The prosecution asked Magistrate Judge John Rodgers to order Spitzauer to continue to be detained in federal custody.

It filed motions saying he was a serious flight risk and that he had violated terms of his probation by allegedly committing a crime while on one-year’s probation.

Spitzhauer pleaded innocent last week to charges of making false statements and aggravated identity theft related to his application for a passport in August.

Green Power TCH
Michael Spitzhauer started the defunct company, Green Powerm on Port of Pasco property, saying it would turn waste into biofuel. File Tri-City Herald

Holland told the judge there was reason to continue to detain Spitzhauer based on his criminal history, his prior conduct and the multiple conflicting statements she said he had made to his probation officer.

Spitzhauer indicated that he is making $3,000 a month working remotely for American Capital Energy on the East Coast, but his probation report showed he had not received income from the work, Holland said.

Spitzhauer had been convicted on 18 counts in Austria on crimes related to fraud and forgery, and then traveled to the United States within weeks of being released from prison there, the prosecution said.

Austria had wanted him returned, but he fought extradition to Austria until the issue was dropped, Holland said.

The defense argued that home monitoring, rather than detention in jail, should be allowed.

Although the prosecution had argued that his history of fraud meant he posed a risk to the public, the defense said there was no tangible victim in the current case against him.

The judge should consider the more than a decade he has lived in the Tri-Cities, putting down roots and becoming involved in the community as a family man with four children, rather than consider decades-old information from Austria, Pechtel said.

Home detention would allow Spitzhauer to continue earning an income and supporting his family, the defense attorney said.

“I cannot see any circumstances he would not show up in court,” Pechtel said. “If he leaves the country, he will abandon his wife of more than 20 years and his children.”

The judge granted the prosecution’s motion for detention, but did not have a chance to offer an explanation.

He was presiding by videoconference from Spokane at the Richland hearing, and the video connection was lost just as he started to explain the ruling. The connection could not be restored by the close of business Friday.

Spitzhauer, who came to court in the custody of federal marshals, left in their custody.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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