United States Penitentiary, Lompoc in Santa Barbara, California. (Bureau of Prisons)

Two Elk power plant promoter Michael J. Ruffatto reported to a minimum security federal prison in California this week to begin serving an 18-month sentence for stealing $5.7 million from a 2009-2010 Department of Energy research grant in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

A spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Prisons said Tuesday Aug. 28 that Ruffatto had been assigned to the United States Penitentiary Lompoc “minimum security satellite prison camp” in Santa Barbara County.

Ruffatto, 72, requested the Lompoc facility at his June 27 sentencing hearing in Pittsburgh. The camp’s 400 inmates live in dormitory style housing in some cases without perimeter fencing. The prison news service PrisonWire describes the Lompoc camp as being “as close as you can get to not feeling like the inmate is incarcerated.” The camp offers programs where selected inmates can work outside the camp in the local community.

In addition to prison time, Ruffatto still owes the federal government more than $8 million in restitution and civil penalties, including $2,019,281.92 that is due before the end of the year.

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The week before he reported to prison, Ruffatto cut his asking price on his sprawling Colorado estate from $10.4 million to $8.9 million. When he first put the Cherry Hills Village property on the market in 2015  it was priced at $14 million.

According to business associates in California, Ruffatto has also been trying to sell his interest in two California power plants with an estimated worth of about $4 million based on power purchasing agreements with California utilities.

According to one source who claims to have recently met with him, Ruffatto has also attempted to interest foreign investors in the long-defunct Two Elk Power Plant project in Campbell County that he first proposed in 1997.

Ruffatto cut his asking price on his sprawling Colorado estate from $10.4 million to $8.9 million. When he first put the Cherry Hills Village property on the market in 2015 it was priced at $14 million. (Zillow)

Rone Tempest

Rone Tempest was a longtime national and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. In 2004 he was part of a team of reporters to win the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the massive wildfires in Southern...

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  1. Thank you. Thank you Thank you

    Mr. and the late Mrs.. Ruffatto made my working life at the University of Denver hell because of the pledge addressed below…

    College of Education, LEP receive $5 million
    By Staff
    Posted March 5, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    To honor a program they say opened doors for their daughter, Joan and Mike Ruffatto have donated $5 million toward the construction of a building to house DU’s Learning Effectiveness Program (LEP) and College of Education.

    The building — named Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall after the donors’ daughter — will be constructed on Evans Avenue between Race and High streets.

    “The Ruffattos are passionate supporters of the Learning Effectiveness Program, and we are so grateful they have chosen to recognize the impact it had on their daughter’s life by helping give it, and the College of Education, a new building to share,” says Chancellor Robert Coombe.

    “The co-location will enable the two programs to develop collaborative research and community outreach, which will have a positive outcome for our community and our state.”

    At age 12, Kathie Ruffatto (BA biology ’05) was diagnosed with Lupus — an autoimmune disease in which the immune system, for unknown reasons, becomes hyperactive and attacks normal tissue and body functions.

    “Students with chronic health conditions are often misunderstood academically, which can lead to educators making the wrong assumptions about the student’s ability and motivation,” says LEP Director Ted May. “The education options for students like Kathie are usually limited not by the individual’s
    intelligence and commitment, but by attitudes that some educational professionals hold about people with these health conditions.”

    May says the LEP offers comprehensive, individualized services to more than 200 DU students with learning disabilities, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Those services include individual academic counselors, tutoring, and organizational and study strategies specialists.

    The Ruffattos are long-time Denver residents and philanthropists. Joan joined the LEP last year as an academic counselor; Mike is president of North American Power Group Ltd., which is headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colo.

    “This gift is our way of saying thank you to DU for what the Learning Effectiveness Program did for our child,” Joan Ruffatto says. “If it wasn’t for the LEP and Ted May, there are a lot of students who would not have graduated.” This article originally appeared in The Source, March 2007.

    Ruffatto kept delaying converting his pledge to actual gift, he and his late wife became intimately involved in the planning and construction of Ruffatto Hall. They also disrupted my division and began a process of challenging my professional/management competence. I became a target of his arrogant and abusive tactics…. persistent stalling in the gift conversion …. He supposedly finally did convert the pledge to gift in 2010, .. One wonders if he actually did covert the gift if he used federal dollars to get the naming rights of Catherine Ruffatto Hall…. that houses the Mortgridge College of Education and the former division that I directed, The University of Denver prides itself on serving the public good… using a donation that may have been obtained through fraud…. stretches the meaning of ” public good”.

  2. Does the final paragraph mean Ruffato is up to his old tricks trying to get others involved in Two Elk again?