Boulder Spinal Surgeon Pleads Guilty to Bankruptcy Fraud
The Boulder spinal surgeon accused of bankruptcy fraud has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors that could result in more than two years of prison time.
Dr. Cathleen Van Buskirk pleaded guilty to one count of bankruptcy fraud on Friday, according to court documents. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped the remaining charges of concealment of bankruptcy assets, fraudulent transfer and concealment, and money laundering.
According to the plea agreement, prosecutors will not ask for more than 33 months in prison for the bankruptcy fraud charge, which typically can carry up to five years in prison.
But court documents also show that the two sides are in disagreement about the maximum prison sentence a judge can impose on Van Buskirk, given her guilty plea. Prosecutors calculate that Van Buskirk could be sentenced to up 37 months while defense attorneys calculated she could be sentenced to a maximum of 24 months.
A judge will decide at a Nov. 28 sentencing hearing how much time Van Buskirk could face, though it will not exceed the 33 months agreed to in the plea deal.
Per the plea agreement, Van Buskirk will also be fined the full amount allowed by a judge, though attorneys on both sides also are in dispute as to that number, with prosecutors saying it is $60,000 and defense attorneys saying it is $50,000.
Van Buskirk is currently free on $150,000 bond, and a judge ruled she could remain out of custody until her sentencing hearing.
Van Buskirk was indicted Dec. 4 after prosecutors said she “deliberately failed to disclose certain assets and took various steps to conceal her interest in those concealed assets” in 2014 and 2015.
According to the plea agreement, Van Buskirk went into debt after a failed real estate investment in New Mexico. Prosecutors said while considering filing for bankruptcy, Van Buskirk had her sister and an employee create companies that she moved money to.
She also gave gold and silver coins, a diamond ring, and $48,000 in cash to a friend “for the purpose of hiding those assets from the bankruptcy trustee.”
In total, prosecutors believe Van Buskirk hid about $250,000 in assets from the bankruptcy trustee. The trustee was notified by Van Buskirk’s friend of the other assets, which prompted him to open the investigation.
Van Buskirk runs Alpine Spine Center, P.C., at 4745 Arapahoe Ave., in Boulder, though the center’s website says it is now closed.
In a 2011 profile published by The Denver Post , Van Buskirk is described as living in Erie with a home that backed up the airport so she could fly her “gleaming Cirrus Turbo SR-22 single-engine airplane with advanced avionics.”
In that story, Van Buskirk also discussed owning a Porsche Boxster, a Range Rover and a Vespa scooter that she kept in the hangar at her house, which she called “Enticement Alley.”
Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/mitchellbyars