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Originally published Friday, September 16, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Fugitive Mastro calls sister, eluded feds by days

The sister of fugitive former real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro says he has phoned her several times since he and his wife, Linda, disappeared earlier this summer. The FBI has taken over the hunt for the bankrupt developer.

Seattle Times business reporter

quotes I still wonder how Mr Mastro managed to orchestrate this whole disappearance act in a... Read more
quotes They sure strung everyone along for quite a while. I'd bet good money those rings were... Read more
quotes The guy scammed his own sister. Why in the world is she even willing to talk to such a... Read more

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The sister of fugitive former real-estate magnate Michael R. Mastro says he has phoned her several times since he and his wife, Linda, disappeared earlier this summer.

"He said he would not tell me where he is," Gloria Plischke said Friday. "I don't want to know."

The Mastros were in Canada a month or so ago, said Mark Ericks, U.S. marshal for Western Washington, and deputies tracked them to an apartment there that they had vacated a day or two earlier.

The FBI has since taken over the hunt, he said.

Plischke said Mastro has phoned her mostly to check on family. He has not explained why he left, she added, but did tell her he and his wife have not settled down anyplace yet.

She said in an interview that she couldn't recall how many conversations she and her brother have had — "I don't keep track" — but she believed at least one call had come since the funeral of another sister Aug. 18.

Plischke, 79, spoke a day after the court-appointed trustee in Mastro's massive bankruptcy proceeding filed court papers seeking to question her under oath. Trustee James Rigby also asked to subpoena Plischke's phone bills, as well as any documents related to communication with the Mastros over the past three months.

Rigby declined to say more Friday.

Mastro, 86, a longtime Seattle real-estate developer and lender, was pushed into one of Washington's largest ever bankruptcies in July 2009.

Rigby has estimated Mastro's debt to unsecured creditors at $325 million, and has indicated they are unlikely to get more than a fraction of that back.

The Mastros' whereabouts haven't been known since late June, when the couple moved out of a house they had been renting in Palm Desert, Calif., since last fall.

Warrants for their arrest were issued July 29 after they failed to comply with a bankruptcy judge's order to appear in court. They had failed to comply with earlier court orders to hand over two diamond rings valued at $1.4 million.

Ericks, the U.S. Marshal, wouldn't say why the FBI has taken over the search for the Mastros. Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle, also declined to comment.

But Plischke said an FBI agent interviewed her at her home in late August. And FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents also interviewed two other Mastro associates around that time, said James Frush, Mastro's lawyer.

Mastro has been the subject of a federal criminal investigation for more than 18 months. Frush said he hasn't talked with federal prosecutors about that probe since last winter.

He wouldn't say whether he has been in contact with Mastro lately. "If I have spoken with him, I couldn't tell you," Frush said.

In his written request Thursday for authorization to question Plischke, Rigby said he had received reports that she had one of the Mastros' cars, a Bentley.

That's correct, Plischke said Friday: Mastro had it shipped from Palm Desert to her West Seattle home in June. At the time, she said, she thought he and Linda would be moving back to the Seattle area and would pick up the car when they returned.

"It's been sitting in my garage since then," Plischke said. "I wish they [authorities] would come out and get it. They can have it."

She said she told the FBI agent about the car when he came to her home to in late August, and had her husband show the agent the vehicle.

Plischke said her brother's bankruptcy has hit her and her husband hard. Most of their money was invested with Mastro, she said: "It was always good. And then it was gone."

Since the bankruptcy, Plischke said, they have been living on Social Security and have taken out a reverse mortgage on their home.

She's also one of several dozen Mastro associates who have been served with "clawback" lawsuits from Rigby, whose job is to recoup as much as possible for unsecured creditors.

He's seeking to recover $76,500 that he contends Mastro transferred to Plischke in the months before and weeks immediately after entering bankruptcy.

"It isn't easy going through this," Plischke said of her brother's bankruptcy, "but I have nothing to hide."

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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