Waldholtz’ Missing Husband Turns Himself In
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Utah congresswoman’s estranged husband, after vanishing for six days, surrendered Friday for questioning in what the FBI calls a $1.7 million check-kiting scheme.
Joe Waldholtz, 32, walked into the U.S. attorney’s officer here with his lawyer in response to a federal warrant seeking his arrest as a material witness in a grand jury’s bank fraud investigation.
His wife, first-term Republican Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz, filed for divorce Tuesday, saying her husband of two years was guilty of ``an incredible level of deception″ and saying she wanted her maiden name back.
``I have every confidence that the Department of Justice will get to the bottom of the fraud and deception he has perpetrated on me, my family, his family, friends and others,″ Rep. Waldholtz, 37, said in a statement Friday. ``I know that they all share my hurt and sadness as we try to comprehend what Joe has done.″
Waldholtz had been missing since last Saturday. After appearing before a federal judge Friday, he was released to the custody to an acquaintance in Philadelphia who is an attorney.
In an affidavit, the FBI alleged that Waldholtz was involved in the check-kiting scheme and that he manipulated accounts at First Security Bank in Salt Lake City and the Congressional Federal Credit Union at the Capitol.
Waldholtz disappeared last Saturday afternoon, leaving behind his brother-in-law and his car at Washington’s National Airport, along with a storm of suspicion about bounced checks, a mysterious trust fund he claimed to have and possible misuse of campaign and personal funds.
Last Sunday, District of Columbia police had declared him a missing person.
``At the time of his disappearance, he was aware that his finances and those of his wife were under investigation,″ according to FBI agent Kevin Lewis’ affidavit.
The congresswoman told authorities her husband may have had access to about $2 million when he disappeared. ``Rep. Waldholtz now claims to have no idea where the funds are located,″ the affidavit said.
Waldholtz was under ``very intense and very acute personal pressures,″ his attorney, Harvey Sernovitz, told U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan at a hearing several hours after Waldholtz turned himself in,
``He needed space to get his thoughts together,″ Sernovitz said, explaining that Waldholtz had taken a train from Washington to Springfield, Mass., where he spent two nights. He then took another train from Springfield to Philadelphia, Sernovitz said.
Waldholtz was ordered to appear next Wednesday at a hearing before Sullivan to determine whether he will testify before the grand jury convening that day or will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
``It appears that Mr. Waldholtz may have some Fifth Amendment concerns,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney William Lawler told Sullivan.
Sullivan granted Sernovitz’s request that Waldholtz not be imprisoned. The Philadelphia attorney who is acting as a custodian spoke by telephone with the judge during the hearing and agreed to sign papers taking responsibility for Waldholtz. The acquaintance was identified only as a lawyer who knew Waldholtz from political activities.
Waldholtz agreed in return to limit his travel to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington, and to remain in daily telephone contact with an FBI special agent in Philadelphia. His passport is being canceled by the government.
Waldholtz, wearing a striped sweater, sat with Sernovitz during most of the hour-long hearing, but spoke few words himself. He affirmed to the judge under oath that a list of assets he provided to prosecutors, which Lawler described as ``relatively modest,″ was accurate.
The congresswoman’s attorneys told authorities her husband had used an automatic teller machine at the Amtrak station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Saturday and later drew funds from an ATM in Springfield, Mass., according to the affidavit.
Joe Waldholtz was a signatory to the accounts, which were opened and jointly held by the couple.
Between Jan. 12 and March 2, deposits were made to the Waldholtz credit union account totaling more than $1.5 million, the FBI said. Those checks were drawn on the couple’s account at First Security, the affidavit said. At the same time, Waldholtz wrote checks on the credit union account to himself for more than $1.7 million, according to the FBI. Those were deposited at First Security.
Also, Lewis’ affidavit said many of the $65,000 in checks Waldholtz wrote to third parties, drawn on the credit union account, ultimately were returned as unpaid.
Check-kiting involves a person’s manipulation of bank accounts to artificially inflate the balance of the accounts so that funds and bogus credit can be obtained.