Kenai pilot sentenced to 44 months for tax evasion

Casey Grove

A Kenai pilot who dodged tax collectors for years will spend 44 months in prison after his sentencing Thursday in federal court.

A jury found Michael Spisak, 50, guilty of tax evasion in October, according to court records. A judge sentenced Spisak to 44 months in prison on Thursday.

Spisak was a commercial pilot and an assistant hunting and fishing guide for more than 20 years starting in the 1980s, according to prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's Office. As the head of two companies, TransNorthern Aviation Inc. and Bellair Inc., Spisak withheld income, Social Security and Medicare taxes from his employees but didn't give the money to the IRS. In 2005, the IRS assessed his tax penalties at more than $200,000, the prosecutors said.

According to a sentencing memorandum, Spisak avoided paying the taxes in a variety of ways, including keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank account in Belize and hiding ownership of airplanes by "selling" them to companies controlled by members of his family, while continuing to use the planes. Spisak also bought and signed over property to his second and third wives and transferred money to his daughter and son-in-law, the memorandum says. The prosecutors say Spisak paid creditors but not the tax collectors, and had his financial obligations paid for by others.

At the Thursday sentencing, Judge Ralph Beistline called Spisak, convicted in 2008 of wire fraud, a "fundamentally dishonest person," according to a written statement from prosecutors.

"Everyone wants to pay as little as legally possible to the IRS," Beistline said. "(Spisak had) no respect for the law."