Woman go­ing to jail for help­ing a CEO com­mit pass­port fraud

Tri-City Herald - - Local News - BY KRISTIN M. KRAE­MER kkrae­[email protected]­i­ty­her­ald.com

An Is­saquah woman caught up in her long­time friend’s fraud schemes said she is mo­ti­vated to push on with his ef­forts to pro­duce clean fuel be­cause she wants “to make the planet a bet­ter place.”

Ju­dith Cal­houn ini­tially asked a fed­eral judge this week to al­low her to keep in con­tact with con man Michael Peter Spitza­uer be­cause she is des­per­ate to save the en­ter­prise.

But then the 74-year-old said she has been work­ing with other peo­ple, in­clud­ing a fab­ri­ca­tor in Canada, who should be able to help her get the bio­fuel tech­nol­ogy work­ing.

“If I am to­tally separated from Michael and you don’t al­low me to ask him ques­tions, I will get my an­swers any­way be­cause I have en­gi­neers. And maybe that is even bet­ter,” Cal­houn told Judge Sal Men­doza Jr.

Spitza­uer, 50, went to fed­eral prison after he scammed in­vestors in his Green Power com­pany, which claimed to be build- ing a waste-to-fuel plant at the Port of Pasco.

Now, Spitza­uer is be­hind bars for us­ing the birth cer­tifi­cate of a dead baby to ap­ply for a U.S. pass­port after his release on the ear­lier case.

He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Septem­ber to mak­ing a false state­ment and ag­gra­vated iden­tity theft, but has filed a mo­tion to with­draw the plea. A hear­ing is sched­uled for Jan­uary.

Cal­houn was sen­tenced Thurs­day in Rich­land’s Fed­eral Build­ing to one month in jail, fol­lowed by one year of su­per­vised release.

She pleaded guilty in Septem­ber to one misde- meanor charge of pos­sess­ing an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment to de­fraud the United States — the baby’s birth cer­tifi­cate used by Spitza­uer.

Her at­tor­ney, Ul­var Klein of Yakima, tried to keep his client out of cus­tody by say­ing he’s skep­ti­cal about her con­nec­tions with Spitza­uer. He sug­gested com­mu­nity ser­vice or elec­tronic home mon­i­tor­ing.

“Ju­dith is a vic­tim. She’s been a vic­tim. She’ll con­tinue to be a vic­tim to some level be­cause she’s an ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble per­son to peo­ple’s claims and op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Klein said.

Once Cal­houn learned she was go­ing to be locked up, she re­it­er­ated to Judge Men­doza that jail is not ap­pro­pri­ate for her and

she doesn’t know any­one who has come out bet­ter for hav­ing been there.

She then asked to re­port at a later date to the Fed­eral Bureau of Prisons so she can get things or­ga­nized for her hus­band.

“My hus­band has asked me sev­eral times to get help, which I haven’t done. I need to speak with a psy­chol­o­gist,” she said. “If I was sent into men­tal health court, I might be able to get some coun­sel­ing, which would cor­rect my be­hav­ior. But there is noth­ing in jail that could help that.”

The judge said the fed­eral sys­tem does not have a men­tal health court. He also ques­tioned if Cal­houn will vol­un­tar­ily sur­ren­der once given a re­port date.

“Ms. Cal­houn, I don’t know what you need, hon­estly. I wish I did be­cause I would like to help you,” he said. “But that is some­thing you could work with your su­per­vis­ing ( pro­ba­tion) of­fi­cer on through­out the year, what kind of help is avail­able.”

Spitza­uer was sen­tenced in 2015 to four years in fed­eral prison for swin­dling U.S. and in­ter­na­tional in­vestors, fail­ing to file a tax re­turn one year and fil­ing a false tax re­turn an­other year. The CEO of Green Power was or­dered to re­pay his vic­tims nearly $13 mil­lion.

At one time, Spitza­uer also an­nounced plan to build an $82 mil­lion plant in Fife inside the Puyallup tribal reser­va­tion to con­vert waste to diesel. That project was never built.

He was re­leased from prison in June 2017, and less than two months later ap­plied for a pass­port us­ing fake in­for­ma­tion.

A na­tive of Aus­tria, Spitza­uer claimed on his ap­pli­ca­tion that he was born Michael S. McCune in El Paso, Texas. He also listed his birth date in

1967, a year be­fore he re­ally was born.

Spitza­uer said he had been con­tacted in prison by a man named James L. McCune, who be­lieved Spitza­uer was his long-lost Texas son.

Spitza­uer pre­vi­ously told Judge Men­doza he didn’t know whether he was born in the United States or Aus­tria, but that he was raised in Aus­tria and came to this coun­try in the

1990s.

He has a 1989 con­vic­tion for fraud and forgery and a 1992 con­vic­tion for fraud, both cases in Aus­tria, and a false state­ment con­vic­tion in 1997 in the United States.

Spitza­uer faces de­por­ta­tion from the United States after his re­cent guilty plea.

Court doc­u­ments show that Cal­houn helped get the Texas cer­tifi­cate of the baby who died within 24 hours of birth. She had the birth cer­tifi­cate sent to her home.

Cal­houn said James McCune came up with a false story for the pass­port ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­plain the dis­crep­an­cies be­tween the El Paso birth cer­tifi­cate and Spitza­uer’s ac­tual bio­graph­i­cal data and fa­mil­iar his­tory, doc­u­ments said.

Cal­houn also re­port­edly bought a DNA test from a drug­store, got DNA sam­ples from Spitza­uer and his son, and sub­mit­ted it un­der the McCune names to try to show a ge­netic link.

Spitza­uer “sent his DNA out from the jail us­ing ‘bal­loon things,’ which were later de­scribed as rub­ber gloves,” ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Cal­houn ad­mit­ted to in­ves­ti­ga­tors that it was her idea to fal­sify the DNA, but couldn’t an­swer why she helped if she re­ally be­lieved McCune was Spitza­uer’s fa­ther.

Cal­houn said she has “a per­sonal fam­ily re­la­tion­ship” with Spitza­uer and that the two met more than 35 years ago when he was liv­ing in Europe and they “were do­ing some com­modi­ties trad­ing.”

She de­scribed Spitza­uer’s chil­dren as her grand­kids, and said she has been help­ing Spitza­uer’s wife as she first bat­tled throat can­cer and now lung can­cer.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Meghan Mc­Calla had rec­om­mended three months in jail.

“A lot of it has to do with (Cal­houn) not want­ing to change her be­hav­ior, and not seem­ing to rec­og­nize that it needs to change in terms of ... she has this un­wa­ver­ing ded­i­ca­tion to co-de­fen­dant Spitza­uer and that ded­i­ca­tion con­tin­ues to in­volve her be­ing in­volved in his crim­i­nal ex­ploits,” she said.

Judge Men­doza asked Mc­Calla if she thinks some jail time will change that.

“I think it will be­cause I think, at this point, there has been no in­cen­tive, no rea­son for her to change that be­hav­ior,” said Mc­Calla.

She added that Cal­houn might have been a vic­tim of Spitza­uer decades ago, but she con­tin­ues to be loyal to and as­so­ciate with him know­ing that Spitza­uer en­gages in these be­hav­iors. Cal­houn’s ded­i­ca­tion to Spitza­uer has been very detri­men­tal to her, both fi­nan­cially and emo­tion­ally, she said.

“I think she fol­lows her own moral com­pass, which does not com­port with so­ci­ety’s moral com- pass,” Mc­Calla said. “I wouldn’t say that she goes so far in terms of seek­ing out crim­i­nal be­hav­ior, but I do think that she acts in a way that en­com­passes a dis­re­gard of the fact there is crim­i­nal be­hav­ior.”

Cal­houn rolled her eyes sev­eral times while the pros­e­cu­tor was talk­ing about her. At one point, her at­tor­ney told the seated Cal­houn to turn around and face the judge.

While Cal­houn has been or­dered to have no con­tact with Spitza­uer, and vice versa, she re­port­edly has given him money to spend in jail.

She also re­vealed Thurs­day that Spitza­uer “calls and calls and calls and calls, and sends letters.” She said he called her twice the morn­ing be­fore her hear­ing, but she did not an­swer.

“That’s help­ful for the court to know,” said Judge Men­doza.

The judge said he be­lieves Cal­houn has no re­spect for the law or the court’s or­ders.

“Ms. Cal­houn, as I in­di­cated to you, I don’t think you’re an evil per­son by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. But I do be­lieve that you don’t com­pre­hend how much your ac­tions — when you dis­re­gard what the law is — how that af­fects the rest of us, the pub­lic, the com­mu­nity,” said Men­doza.

“And if you de­cide to do that in the fu­ture, you will find your­self again in front of me be­cause, dur­ing that one year pe­riod of time after you are re­leased, if there is a vi­o­la­tion you’re go­ing to come back in front of me and I will have to de­cide whether or not to send you to jail for a year.”

Michael Spitza­uer

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