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Kenai aviator fined $100,000 for fraud

Posted: Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Kenai aviator doing business as Bellair Inc. was sentenced in federal court in Anchorage to three years probation and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine after being convicted of wire fraud.

Michael Spisak, 45, of Kenai, had been charged with six counts of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements in order to receive increased mail tender under the Rural Service Improvement Act of 2002. The act establishes rules governing a process that tenders nonpriority bypass mail from the U.S. Postal Service to qualified air carriers.

The goal of RSIA, according to information presented in court by assistant U.S. attorney Retta Randall, is to reward air carriers in Alaska who best serve air freight shippers with the financial reward associated with delivering mail tender.

Charging documents say Spisak falsely inflated Bellair's freight service amount in its markets of Anaktuvuk Pass, Huslia, Galena, Kaltag, Nulato, Point Hope, Shungnak and Selawik.

The reports were transmitted via e-mail to the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.

"That's how we were able to bring wire fraud (charges)," Randall said Monday.

In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney, Spisak entered a plea of guilty to one count of wire fraud.

As a result of the falsified reports, Spisak received payments from the postal service for delivery of mail for which Bellair did not qualify.

The inflated numbers were reported for service periods between July 2003 and February 2004.

Spisak also was accused of falsely reporting Bellair's chartered cargo service as scheduled cargo service instead of nonscheduled cargo service, so it would count toward the eligible freight total for purposes of receiving mail tender.

When asked Monday if she felt the sentence was adequate, Randall said, "It was satisfactory.

"Sentencing guidelines are dependent on loss, and there was no real loss to the postal service as much as it was depriving payments to other competitors," she said. "A sentence of probation is OK."

When contacted at his big game commercial guide business Ram Aviation Spisak said he did not wish to comment about the sentence.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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