By Pedro Ruz Gutierrez of The Sentinel Staff
OCALA — A real-estate broker testified Wednesday that he embellished his accounts and omitted crucial information that would have helped the defense of an Orlando abortion doctor.
Michael Spielvogel admitted he lied and misled everybody when he faked a phone call in which he claimed the Marion County chairman threatened him with an abortion clinic bombing. Spielvogel and Dr. James Scott Pendergraft are accused of conspiring to commit extortion, mail fraud and making false statements.
Chairman Larry Cretul, working with the FBI, secretly tape-recorded conversations with Spielvogel and Pendergraft in 1997 and 1998. The Orlando men promised to stay out of Marion County if the county or a group of churches came up with $500,000 to $1 million.
Prosecutors say the men conspired by filing false affidavits used to demand at least $100 million in damages from the county in a 1998 civil suit.
Spielvogel had charged that Cretul intimidated him by saying he would not have his wife work in an abortion clinic in Ocala if he were in his shoes. He also alleged Cretul made references to a future abortion clinic bombing.
Spielvogel, 53, admitted he feigned a phone call with Cretul in which he repeated alleged threats aloud so Pendergraft could hear him. The doctor based his affidavit on that charge.
At one point during one of many heated moments, Senior Judge William Terrell Hodges pounded his fist and asked for order as Pendergraft’s attorney, Jacob Rose, and U.S. Attorney Mark Devereaux sparred.
“I’m the scumbag and dirt bucket here,” concluded Spielvogel, who went on to defend his former employer. “He never did anything wrong.”
Spielvogel said he was motivated by fear — not money — when he sought to persuade Pendergraft to relocate from Ocala. He admitted he bluffed when speaking with Cretul on the doctor’s behalf.
Spielvogel, unaware that he was being recorded, called the FBI to report Cretul’s alleged threats around the same time Special Agent Pamela Piersanti of Ocala began investigating him.
“I wanted to get the FBI to wire me so that anything that was said would be recorded,” he said. “I felt that Dr. Pendergraft would be singled out and targeted in Ocala, and with the advent of tremendous community pressure someone would come forward” to attack Pendergraft.