A decade ago, wrestling with crushing legal and financial problems and looking at months of jail time, a cocky 26-year-old stockbroker named Douglas Alan Glaser decided to disappear. He walked away from his business and home in Colorado, only to reappear in New Jersey as a man named Douglas Michael Glausen.
Under his new identity, Glaser prospered. Starting with only a few hundred dollars, he was soon pulling in thousands a month from volatile penny-stock deals; at the crest of one stock's wild ride, his assets on paper totaled close to $50 million. After a few years, he even returned to Colorado in an effort, he says, to drop the mask and "clean up" old business.
But the past has a way of coming back -- with a crash, in Glaser's case. On a Sunday afternoon in April 2005, he was headed south on Broadway in his Mercedes when another driver abruptly lurched in front of him from a side street. The two collided. The other driver fled the scene. When asked for his identification, Glaser, whose driver's license had been revoked because of previous traffic offenses, gave the responding officer a passport in a different name -- setting off a chain of events the criminal-justice system has yet to sort out two years later.
Douglas Alan Glaser
What began as a simple question of identity has mushroomed into a 43-count indictment accusing Glaser of theft, forgery, securities fraud and criminal impersonation. He's been investigated by Homeland Security, the Secret Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the IRS and the State Department and seen his tenuous fortune evaporate. Three months ago the entire criminal case against him was dismissed by a Denver judge, only to be reinstated three days later. Yet so far, only one of the charges -- possession of a weapon by a previous offender -- has gone to a jury, and it resulted in a mistrial. He faces three more trials this summer.
Since the indictment was issued, Glaser has become a well-entrenched resident of the Denver County Jail, setting a record of sorts by racking up more than 600 days of pre-trial detention. It isn't the $750,000 bail requirement that has kept him there, or even the confusion over shifting attorneys and constitutional issues that have dogged the case. It has to do with the ID he produced after the accident. Searches of his home and office turned up passports in the names of Douglas Alan Glaser and Douglas Michael Glausen, but the police officer investigating the hit-and-run told authorities that Glaser presented yet a third passport to him, in the name of Michael Douglas Glaser. Judge Morris Hoffman ruled that Glaser must surrender that passport as a condition of bond, but Glaser insists the document never existed.
"If you're searching for something that doesn't exist, you're not going to find it," Glaser says. "It's hard to prove something doesn't exist. But I think I have proved it. And they don't care."
Glaser acknowledges that his present fix is, to some extent, a result of his own penchant for living large, fast and loose. An Illinois native who went to high school in Estes Park, he had a stockbroker's license by the time he was twenty. At 23 he'd made his first million, he says, but he was spending it faster than it came in, on fancy clothes, cars and partying -- and racking up drunk-driving arrests. "When I was young, I was an asshole," he says.
In 1996, Glaser was facing 400 days in jail in Arapahoe County on habitual traffic-offender charges. The SEC was in the process of barring him and his associates at a Greeley firm from the securities business, the result of an alleged "pump and dump" scheme involving unlawfully issued and vastly inflated stock in a company called Sky Scientific, which sank from $17.50 a share to 25 cents. Glaser decided it was a good time to start over somewhere else.
"Instead of doing the time, I listened to a business associate's advice," he says. "I didn't take somebody's ID. I created one."
Starting with a birth certificate in the name of Douglas Michael Glausen, Glaser was able to get a New Jersey driver's license. Then he applied for a passport. Down to his last $621, he shelled out $400 for a deposit on a cell phone and was soon back in business. By his account, he was doing well enough that he decided to return to Colorado to clear up matters -- but loans and insurance settlements he'd obtained under the name of Glausen would continue to haunt him.
Back in Denver in 2002, Glaser was arrested in Douglas County and charged with multiple counts of forgery and criminal impersonation. He pleaded guilty to a single count of possession of a forged document and received two years of probation. That, he figured, was the end of the masquerade. He was now in the business of putting together reverse mergers of shell companies. His partner, Chris Stevenson, was a fellow felon he'd met in the Arapahoe County jail.
Glaser claims he put aside the Glausen identity after the plea deal. But the Glausen passport was still in his car, he says, the day of the accident; he contends that was the document that Denver police officer Mark Dalvit inspected before giving it back and sending him to the hospital. According to Dalvit's account, though, the accident victim presented ID in the name of Michael Douglas Glaser, which didn't turn up on a records check. A license-plate search revealed that the Mercedes belonged to Douglas Alan Glaser.
At the time, Glaser was under investigation by the SEC -- again. He and five other men were accused of creating an artificial market for a company they took public, manipulating its stock price and misrepresenting the value. The traffic stop became the trigger for search warrants and an array of fresh charges, claiming that Glaser and Stevenson had bilked investors out of $19,000 in another stock venture.
Charged in the fall of 2005, Glaser made bail and was out for thirteen days before the bond was revoked and authorities demanded he produce the phantom "Michael Douglas Glaser" passport. "There's just too many coincidences of spellings, names and alleged dates of birth for it to have been just some typo or mistake by Officer Dalvit," Judge Robert McGahey ruled. "I believe the passport existed."
At a subsequent hearing, Glaser submitted Colorado Bureau of Investigations records that indicated Dalvit's records check had proceeded differently than prosecutors had described. "He ran the plates before he ran any ID," Glaser insists. "He never ran 'Michael Douglas Glaser,' only 'Michael Douglas.' Look, if I was a flight risk, why wouldn't I have left during the thirteen days I was out? Why would I have destroyed that passport and not the other one?"
Confronted with evidence that Dalvit had garbled the name on the Glausen passport, attorneys were reduced to talking about the "real" passport, the "fake" passport and the "fake-fake" passport. But Judge Hoffman ruled that the bond conditions would remain in place.
That was a year ago. Since that time, Glaser's first attorney has withdrawn from the case, citing his client's lack of funds. His second, Michael Andre, committed suicide last February ("Andre the Giant," March 7), shortly after the mistrial on the weapons charge. Glaser says he no longer has the resources to make the $750,000 bond even if the passport requirement was removed; his accounts are drained, and he's lost his $1.5 million home in the Cherry Creek North neighborhood.
He blames many of his problems on his former partner, Chris Stevenson, who's now serving a sixteen-year sentence on a previous theft conviction. His stories of a six-figure monthly income are somewhat at odds with the barrage of civil suits he's faced -- for example, two sisters in California have an unsatisfied judgment of $82,000 against him, over a 2003 loan he failed to repay despite promises of a 50 percent return on the money. But the tales are crucial to his defense: Why would such a stock wizard stoop to conning small-time investors out of a few grand?
Over the past two years, Glaser has become a formidable jailhouse lawyer. He argues smoothly that his right to a speedy trial has been violated. He claims to have helped several other prisoners in "Thunderdome," the roughest unit in the county jail, to file appeals and obtain sentence reductions.
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"I didn't know anything about the law before I came here," he says. "Now there are 78 motions on file in the law library, and I wrote every one of them."
But Glaser is no longer in Thunderdome. He's been in the hole since Christmas. "A guy went into my cell to steal some things, so the guy and I met in the shower, and I knocked him down and made him apologize," he explains, flashing a boyish grin.
He may seem at ease behind bars, but he hopes that he doesn't have to be there much longer, that the gauntlet of trials this summer will vindicate him.
"I know what I did before was wrong," he says. "But I don't feel I've done anything wrong this time. I was doing everything possible to live right."