Former Fairbanks fugitive enters guilty plea

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Former Fairbanks banker Thomas Miklautsch pleaded guilty to one charge of bank fraud Friday in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

Miklautsch, 77, had faced 15 felony counts stemming from a 1995 indictment of Alaska Statebank executives. In the agreement, all but the bank fraud charge was dropped.

He will remain in custody at Cook Inlet Pre-Trial Facility in Anchorage until his sentencing, set for Sept. 30.

The former Fairbanks city councilman and University of Alaska regent faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Miklautsch had been missing for 14 years when he was arrested by customs agents April 30 at Los Angeles International Airport as he returned from Switzerland.

Miklautsch appeared frail and unsteady as he was escorted into the courtroom, wearing the jail-issued blue shirt and pants that resemble hospital scrubs. He teetered as federal marshals escorted him to the defendant's table and removed his handcuffs.

Before the judge appeared, Miklautsch told his attorney, Eric Sanders, he had lost quite a bit of weight. Jail food, he said, did not offer much as far as taste or protein.

Miklautsch is the last of five executives from the now-defunct Alaska Statebank to be tried on fraud and conspiracy charges for using insider loans to take over then-rival Alaska National Bank of the North in the 1980s, and for issuing inflated dividend payments when the bank was losing money.

Miklautsch vanished before indictments were handed down.

According to court documents, each of the five Alaska Statebank directors in 1984 took out two loans: $350,000 intended to buy stock in the Alaska National Bank of the North, a Fairbanks-based rival, in an unsuccessful takeover bid; and an unsecured loan for $150,000 to pay the interest payments on both loans.

As the loans became due, the amounts were rolled over and additional money was added to the unsecured loan to cover interest payments.

By 1989, the year Alaska Statebank closed, the directors owed nearly $2.5 million. Miklautsch owed more than $1 million, according to court documents.

In the mid-1980s, plummeting oil prices devastated Alaska's economy. The resulting crash in real estate values helped drive 14 banks out of business, including Alaska Statebank.

Once the seventh largest bank in the state, it failed in 1989.

Ralph E. Whitmore Jr., then chief executive officer and board chairman at Alaska Statebank, proposed the plan to the directors and arranged for the loans. He was convicted in December 1999 of 24 counts of bank fraud and other misuse of his position at the failed financial institution.

Derrell Smith, former president of Alaska Statebank, was convicted in 2000 of two felonies misapplying bank funds and falsifying bank records in connection with an $85,000 bank loan.

Former director William Swain paid a $350,000 settlement after pleading guilty to two federal bank fraud counts. Ex-director Robert Ely pleaded guilty to one count of misapplying bank funds.

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