Pasco Green Energy Company Owner Will Stand Trial on Fraud
It's one of the biggest cases of fraud and corruption seen in the Mid-Columbia in many years, and the owner will stand trial for it.
Superior Court Judge Sal Mendoza tossed out a plea bargain that would have had Michael Spitzauer, 47, serve only four years on the fraud charges, saying that was too far below the standard sentencing range for such crimes - especially given the defendant's criminal history.
Sptizauer, an immigrant, has a long and checkered history of fraud, tax evasion, and other financially criminal activity related to various business ventures. He is accused of defrauding investors in a flawed green energy plant that was supposed to be built and run at the Port of Pasco.
Green Power was an ambitious effort to turn garbage into fuel, but according to him, he encountered a lot of setbacks. He apologized and claimed he didn't mean to hurt anyone, but his backround - said U.S. Attorney Mary Dimke - makes him likely to commit fraud again. His criminal history dates back to 1989, and he served time in an Austrian prison, after which he came to the U.S. and began his efforts to create Green Power.
During his first business venture in the U.S., before Green Power, he ran a check fraud scheme that cheated people out of over $400,000.
According to Dimke, after the proposed four-year sentence, he would have been deported to his native Austria.
Green Power had been a part of the Port of Pasco since 2008. The company originally claimed it would be able to convert 100 tons of garbage into 12,000 gallons of diesel fuel, but those projections and claims never materialized.