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Anchorage betrayal infuriates family

  • Author: Casey Grove
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published January 14, 2011

An Anchorage man's out-of-state family is outraged that a man he trusted is charged with stealing huge chunks of his fortune.

"All my relatives are furious about it," said Seattle surgeon Peter Wolff, cousin of victim Sam Lee, 48, and trustee for Lee's $3 million trust fund, money amassed by the victim's award-winning physicist parents for Lee's long-term care.

The money that police say William "Mike" Dixiano, 61, took from Lee is just part of the story of Dixiano's betrayal, Wolff said.

"That wouldn't necessarily have been so bad if he'd been helping take care of him, but then I find out he left him living in a trailer," Wolff said.

Lee's family was stunned by news from police in late December that quarterly $20,000 checks to Lee were being stolen, that he wasn't living in the Jewel Lake house they thought he owned, but instead in an East Anchorage mobile home park, Wolff said. The family wonders if the man arrested for the theft also ripped off $600,000 in cash from Lee several years ago, Wolff said.

For now, Dixiano resides not in the Lakeridge Circle house -- which Lee signed over to him in 2006, according to state records -- but in an Anchorage jail cell held on $100,000 cash bail. Dixiano was arrested last week and faces seven felonies: theft, forgery and scheming to defraud.

Detectives picked up the case last month when they started investigating the disappearance of Dixiano's wife, Angela, who has been missing since at least April. The last person who reported seeing her told police that Angela had threatened to expose her husband's scheme involving Lee, according to a criminal complaint.

Lee, when contacted by a Daily News reporter Tuesday, said he didn't want to talk about his relationship with Dixiano.

Then he did talk briefly.

"He's a close personal friend," Lee said. "I don't want to say anything to incriminate my friend."

"That's how I am with my friends," Lee said, standing in a puffy blue coat, canvas pants and green wool hat.

He'd take a bullet for his friends, Lee said.

A MISSING WOMAN

For the last few weeks, detectives have been trying to unravel the mystery of Angela Dixiano's disappearance, Anchorage police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said.

Dixiano gave differing accounts about Angela's whereabouts, according to court documents. He told Lee and the man who reported Angela missing that she had died of cancer. He told detectives who interviewed him on Dec. 16 that she left after he gave her $10,000 she requested.

He told her family yet another version. Dixiano called in June 2010 to say Angela died of organ failure related to substance abuse, her mother said. The family put an obituary in the local newspaper saying she'd been cremated, the ashes spread on a beach in Homer.

There is no record of Angela's death in Alaska, according to the police. Dixiano is not charged with any crime against her, police said.

But in the course of that investigation, detectives late last month found records of the large sums of money flowing into Dixiano's bank account and the fancy sports cars he was buying. What was this all about? And if Sam Lee, who lives modestly in a mobile home park, was the source of the money, where did Lee get his wealth?

DRIFTING WEST

Sam Lee's parents were research physicists in New Jersey, said Wolff, Lee's cousin, in a recent phone interview.

Lee's father, Peter Goedertier, worked with some of the world's first lasers and helped develop the technology used today in bar-code scanners, Wolff said. As a child in the '60s, Wolff said, he saw his uncle burn holes in things using lasers.

Goedertier and his wife were frugal, hard-working people, Wolff said. They set aside a fortune before they died to support their son, he said.

"Sam has some mental issues, the details of which we don't really know," Wolff said. "It caused him to want to be very independent."

Lee's desire to move away from his parents might have stemmed from the huge difference in intellect, Wolff said.

"He didn't fit into their world, in a sense," he said. "Here's a guy who couldn't do all the things two physics professors would expect."

Eventually Lee came west to Seattle, where Wolff and his mother also happened to live. Lee chose to live on the streets near the waterfront. Wolff said his mother bought Lee dinner once a week.

"He didn't bathe a lot, I mean, he was a homeless person," Wolff said. There was no indication during that time that Lee ever abused drugs or alcohol, Wolff said.

Lee's parents continued to provide for him, but there was little communication between them, Wolff said. Lee kept moving farther away, eventually to Alaska 10 or 15 years ago, he said.

Lee could "be a little eccentric and not have to fit into a normal societal role" in Alaska, he said.

'WHOLESOME' COUPLE

Several years ago -- Wolff is unclear about exactly when -- he got a packet of information from Dixiano, who said he was a counselor for Lee. The packet included pictures of the Dixianos and a letter that painted them as religious and family-oriented, Wolff said.

"It was just a little over the top," Wolff said.

Dixiano represented himself and his wife in a wholesome light. Alaska court records show a darker picture.

Records show Dixiano pleaded guilty to reckless driving and possession of firearms while drunk after a 2007 arrest. An officer pulled Dixiano over for missing license plate lights, but then the officer found three handguns under a seat. Dixiano registered a 0.075 on a subsequent breath-alcohol test, under the legal limit to drive, and an original drunken driving charge was reduced to reckless driving.

During the arrest, Dixiano said he was "following his wife to her crack supplier," the officer wrote in his report.

In 2007 and again in 2008, police cited Angela Dixiano for prostitution and both times ordered her to stay off Spenard Road between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to court documents.

Angela Dixiano has a drunken-driving conviction on her record after a 2008 arrest. She was driving the wrong way on a one-way street at Ted Stevens International Airport, and then registered 0.119 on a breath-alcohol test, according to an officer's report.

During this time, Wolff was getting pressure to release more money, he said.

A FLEET OF CORVETTES

Lee's father died in 2006, Wolff said. A savings account worth about $600,000 went into Lee's control, he said.

In a few months, the account was empty, said Wolff, who thought it was spent on big-ticket items like cars and the house, he said.

"I asked for leases and titles to be sent to me, and as I understand it, those were switched soon after to Mike's name," Wolff said.

The relationship between Dixiano and Lee evolved rapidly after Lee's father died, state records show.

Dixiano's last name had been Dix. But on April 24, 2006, the day after Lee's father died, he petitioned to change his name to Dixiano.

Within seven months, Dixiano opened a joint bank account with Lee and obtained a durable power of attorney for financial matters from Lee, and Lee purchased the Lakeridge Circle house then deeded it to Dixiano.

In 2007, Wolff got a letter he thought was from Lee that described Dixiano and his wife and asked for $30,000 to $35,000 to buy a pickup truck. The letter was signed "Sam Lee" and had Dixiano's address.

"I've been sending to this Lakeridge Circle address for years," Wolff said.

Wolff continued getting letters from the address, believing his cousin lived at the house. The letters pressured him to release huge chunks of money from the trust fund, he said.

In 2007 and 2008, Dixiano went on a spending spree, court records show, acquiring four Corvettes and a brand new Itasca motor home.

Four Corvettes can be seen parked outside the Lakeridge house, with a fifth in the garage, in an undated Google Maps image.

The $20,000 payments every three months were the largest Wolff felt the trust fund could sustain, he said.

"After a while, I had to draw a line in the sand and say, 'This is going to make you bankrupt,' " Wolff said. "So I was a little hard-nosed with the funds, but I never thought it would get to this point, because I thought I was corresponding with Sam."

Police investigated the five checks Wolff mailed to his cousin last year. They allege the checks were deposited into the account Dixiano held jointly with Lee. Then in each case, either the same day or the day after, Dixiano transferred the money to his own private account, according to court records.

'HE'S MY FRIEND'

Standing at the edge of a cul-de-sac Tuesday near his light green mobile home and a truck parked out front of the space he rents, Lee continued to express allegiance to Dixiano.

"He's my friend," Lee said. "This is between me and Mike. I don't want the state of Alaska to get involved."

Lee was not aware four days after Dixiano's arrest that his friend had been charged with seven felonies alleging he took Lee's money, or that Dixiano's wife was considered missing.

Lee asked a reporter to read him the charges against Dixiano.

"All I'm saying, all I'm gonna say is just one thing, I'm very deeply shocked by it," Lee said afterward. "I'm very deeply shocked, and I'm disoriented about the whole thing. Mentally, I'm not doing too well about it."

Find Casey Grove online at adn.com/contact/casey.grove or call him at 257-4589.

Timeline

April 23, 2006 -- Sam Lee's father dies.

April 24, 2006 -- William Michael Dix files to change his last name to Dixiano.

July 10, 2006 -- Dixiano and Lee open a joint bank account.

Aug. 25, 2006 -- Lee signs durable power of attorney to Dixiano.

Sept. 22, 2006 -- Lee acquires house at 4160 Lakeridge Circle.

Nov. 6, 2006 -- Lee signs the house over to Dixiano.

2007 -- Dixiano claims this is when he retired.

May 29 to Aug. 7, 2007 -- Dixiano buys three Corvettes and a new Itasca motor home.

May 7, 2008 -- Dixiano buys another Corvette.

2010 -- Five $20,000 checks to Lee are deposited in the joint account, then transferred to Dixiano's personal account.

By CASEY GROVE

casey.grove@adn.com

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