Husband of Utah lawmaker surrenders Prosecutors allege $1.7 million scheme

November 18, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON -- Six days after he vanished, the husband of Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz of Utah turned himself in to federal authorities here yesterday to face questions about the couple's convoluted finances and how she paid for her 1994 campaign.

Joe Waldholtz, 32, was released to the custody of an unidentified lawyer who did not appear in court.

The attorney pledged over a speaker phone in a federal courtroom that he would be responsible for Mr. Waldholtz's appearance Wednesday before a federal grand jury in Washington.

Mr. Waldholtz has not been charged with a crime and, according to his lawyer, arranged to turn himself in as soon as possible after reading that there was a warrant for his arrest.

He was wanted as a material witness in a $1.7 million checkkiting scheme.

By Wednesday, prosecutors said, they hoped to resolve what they described as Mr. Waldholtz's "Fifth Amendment concerns" about self-incrimination and whether he would testify to the grand jury.

Federal prosecutors left open the possibility that Mrs. Waldholtz, as well as her husband, was under scrutiny.

"The grand jury is investigating criminal allegations regarding financial accounts to which Joseph Waldholtz is a signatory," said William Lawler, an assistant U.S. attorney. "It's important for us to keep an open mind about where the investigation is going to go."

In the meantime, a former campaign aide said yesterday that he had notified Mrs. Waldholtz in the summer of 1994 of serious irregularities in her campaign financing, telling her that checks were bouncing and reports to the Federal Election Commission were inaccurate.

"By 1994 she was warned about the problems in the campaign, and for her to say otherwise is disingenuous," said Steve Taggart, who said he quit her campaign after others told her about the problems and she refused to do anything about them.

Also yesterday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, the senior Republican in the Utah congressional delegation, said in an interview that he had advised the couple less than two weeks ago that Mr. Waldholtz, who was working as an unpaid volunteer in his wife's Washington office, should be removed because of mounting questions about his handling of office finances.

"I called both her and her husband over a week ago and told them they would have to get the best experts they could to straighten this out and disclose to the public what's wrong," Mr. ,Hatch said. "I told him and her, he has to get the heck out of the office and have nothing to do with the finances."

The senator said he was prompted to call by newspaper stories.

"I felt as a big brother, that I ought to sit down and see what I could do to help," he said. "I wanted to make sure she was getting the best advice, and it took someone like me to say he should not be in her office.

"And I asked him to come, too, so that she wouldn't have to make that decision, she could blame me for it. And he agreed and she agreed that he should get out. I don't think at that point she had an inkling of what he had done. They were very down."

Mr. Hatch said he believed that Mr. Waldholtz was "a world-class con man" and that "if the facts are as they have been presented to me," Mrs. Waldholtz was blinded by love and unaware of what her husband was doing and should not resign her seat, despite the escalating political pressure at home to do so.

Mrs. Waldholtz said Thursday that she would not resign, and yesterday she continued to paint herself as the victim of a duplicitous husband.

In seeking Mr. Waldholtz's release yesterday, his lawyer, Harvey Sernovitz of Philadelphia, told a packed federal courtroom that when Mr. Waldholtz disappeared Nov. 11 from National Airport, "He needed space to get his thoughts together."

He traveled by train, the lawyer said, but it was not clear how he reached his first stop, the Amtrak station at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Mr. Waldholtz spent two nights in Springfield, Mass., two nights in a hotel in Philadelphia and two nights with the unidentified lawyer who lives in suburban Philadelphia and who is now his official custodian.

Mr. Sernovitz said the unidentified lawyer was a longtime political acquaintance of Mr. Waldholtz.

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