Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Almost two years after withdrawing his guilty plea to a single count of tax fraud, former Vulcan Power CEO Stephen Munson has entered a new plea agreement on the same charge.

Munson entered the plea Friday in U.S. District Court of Oregon and is due to be sentenced in September. As with the previous plea, prosecutors agreed to drop three counts of bankruptcy fraud and will recommend a minimum sentence. The maximum sentence is three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Under this agreement, however, Munson’s attorney will be able to argue about the amount of the government’s loss stemming from tax fraud and the amount of restitution Munson will owe, said ­Samuel Kauffman of Kauffman Kilberg in Portland. Munson hired Kauffman after breaking with the federal public defender who represented him in the first plea deal.

Munson, 75, founded the defunct Vulcan Power, a geothermal energy company, in 1991 and was CEO until 2008. That year he sold his controlling interest in the company for $15 million, according to court documents. He and other shareholders engaged in a revolt against Denham Capital and Merrill Lynch, investors who’d ousted Munson and taken control of the company.

The tax fraud charge stems from pledges of Vulcan stock that Munson made to the University of Oregon and Stanford University on Dec. 31, 2008.

But Vulcan’s board of directors, by that time controlled by Denham Capital and Merrill Lynch, refused to transfer the 400,000 shares.

Munson went ahead and filed a 2008 tax return in October 2009 that claimed a $3.2 million credit based on the charitable donation to his alma maters. “Although I included a ‘best estimate’ cover letter with my return, I knew when I signed the form that the stock certificates had not yet been transferred by Vulcan from my name to Stanford University and University of Oregon,” Munson’s plea states.

Munson was indicted after spending several years in bankruptcy court, where prosecutors alleged that from 2011 to 2013, he concealed assets including fur coats and accessories, fishing equipment, musical instruments, trailers, a 2006 Vulcan motorcycle, a $50,000 airplane deposit, horses, horse equipment, business interests, financial accounts and cash.

The bankruptcy case, brought by employees seeking past wages, closed without granting Munson a discharge of his debts.

Munson owned a house and acreage on Gerking Market Road in Tumalo until October, when it was sold to Wells Fargo for $975,044, according to Deschutes County Assessor’s records. Munson no longer resides in Oregon, Kauffman said. He’s due to be sentenced Sept. 23, according to U.S. Attorney Billy Williams’ office.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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