Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roanoke Landlord "Spanky" Macher facing fraud charges

The colorful Roanoke businessman also faces a count of tax evasion after his Monday arrest.

By Mike Gangloff

Longtime Roanoke businessman Roland H. "Spanky" Macher, who with his family built a restaurant and rental property empire, then watched his part of it slide into bankruptcy, was arrested Monday and brought into federal court on charges of bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion.
Macher was accused of hiding assets in a bankruptcy he filed in 2000. He sought to evade a $277,763 debt to the Internal Revenue Service that stemmed from his days running the Spanky's restaurant chain, according to a federal indictment unsealed Monday.

Tim Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, has scheduled a news conference today to discuss the indictment.

Macher will not enter a plea to four bankruptcy fraud charges and one count of tax evasion until he is formally arraigned on Friday.

As Macher sought bankruptcy protection, he improperly transferred ownership of three properties in Roanoke and three in Hilton Head, S.C., to other people, then had the properties sold or re-mortgaged, according to the indictment. Macher later testified under oath at a bankruptcy hearing that he had not disposed of any assets, the indictment said.

The indictment wasn't a surprise, said Macher's attorney, Paul Dull of Roanoke. Macher was told by authorities about five years ago that he was under federal investigation, Dull said. The lawyer said he would file a motion to dismiss the charges because most of the alleged crimes occurred a decade ago.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Hogeboom said the six-year statute of limitations on the charges was not an issue because Macher sold one of the Hilton Head properties in 2007. Hogeboom said prosecutors decided to move forward with charges because Macher's bankruptcy was about to be discharged and it would be more complicated to pursue the case after that.

Having operated at least 16 restaurants, including the Star City Diner in downtown Roanoke that closed in the late 1990s, Macher also made headlines as a landlord caught up in squabbles with city inspectors and tenants over the poor condition of his buildings.

At one point, someone put a banner in front of one of his buildings saying he was degrading the neighborhood. In June, Macher put signs on city-owned property that he thought were not being mowed as often as required.

His towing of cars parked in a lot he owned near the Taubman Museum of Art sparked a lawsuit, a ruling that he was overcharging, and a state finding that he had not acquired a towing license.
With characteristic flair, Macher announced his April retirement from the towing business -- although a licensed company would still remove cars from his lot, he said -- by throwing a midday party and giving away hot dogs to passers-by. After he'd given away an estimated 200 hot dogs, the health department shut him down.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Urbanski released Macher on an unsecured $25,000 bond, saying Macher could not begin any significant financial transactions without his probation officer's approval.

Urbanski also said Macher had to "friend" his probation officer on any social networking sites where he had a presence, something the judge made a standard condition after instances where a defendant threatened police or witnesses online.

Macher said his daughter had set up a Facebook account for him, but he did not know how to use it.

Dull assured the court he would connect the probation office with Macher's Facebook page.


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