Where the Bucks Stopped

updated 12/04/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/04/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

THE WEDDING OF JOE WALDHOLTZ and Enid Greene on the top floor of Salt Lake City's Joseph Smith Memorial Building in August 1993 bore all the trappings of a political convention, from the 600 or so invited guests to the closed-circuit cameras beaming the ceremony to a television outside the main ballroom. Enid, about to launch a congressional campaign, reportedly walked down the aisle to Purcell's "Trumpet Voluntary," the march chosen by the Prince and Princess of Wales for their 1981 marriage. "Joe was fascinated by the royal family," says Mike O'Connell, a longtime friend. Indeed, when the Waldholtzes' daughter was born in August 1995, she was named Elizabeth, apparently after the Queen.

But as subsequent events have shown, Joe Waldholtz, 32, is something less than a prince. In the past few weeks, the precarious house he built of borrowed credit cards and bogus accounts has collapsed, and may yet end his wife's promising career in Congress, where she had become known as the "Mormon Maggie Thatcher" for her fiscal and social conservatism. Joe, who served as her campaign treasurer, faces a knot of questions: Federal officials are investigating the source of $1.8 million poured into Enid's successful 1994 campaign. The FBI is looking into charges involving a suspected $1.6 million check-kiting scheme in which he allegedly shuffled money between bank accounts to cover up a shortage of funds. And he was ordered by a Pittsburgh court to provide details about his management of $600,000 belonging to his Alzheimer's-stricken grandmother.

When Waldholtz phoned friend Greg Hughes, a Salt Lake City builder, on Nov. 8, the strain was evident. "It's all over," a tearful Waldholtz said from Washington. "I'm going to do what I should have a long time ago."

Though Hughes, 26, worried his friend was considering suicide, Waldholtz was apparently planning escape of a different sort: he went on the lam, spending two nights in a Springfield, Mass., hotel and four in Philadelphia. By the time the 6'1", 300-pound political consultant surrendered to the FBI, Enid, 37, had filed for divorce, asking for sole custody of Elizabeth and restoration of her maiden name. "Knowing what I know now," says Lisa Ramsey Adams, a friend of Enid's, "it's surprising Joe did such a good job fooling people, because he is not smooth and he is not very charming."

Many who knew the Waldholtzes believe that Enid, though a Salt Lake City lawyer for nine years, simply placed too much trust in her husband. Gary Nordhoff, a friend and campaign worker, remembers an incident when Joe, who claimed to have a trust fund, was describing his high school days working at a Pittsburgh Arby's restaurant, a job he said he took for fun. "He said his stockbroker would call and interrupt his shift and his boss didn't like that," says Nordhoff. "I found the whole thing ludicrous, but Enid was soaking it in."

In fact, Joe's friends believed his tales of a family trust fund for years—-mostly because he spent money so freely. When a childhood buddy broke up with her boyfriend, Joe paid for an $850-a-night suite at a posh New York City hotel and 24-hour limo service to cheer her up. "He told me he had millions and I believed him," says Hughes, adding that Waldholtz paid his medical bills when he severely injured his hand in 1993. "I'd have lost mobility in my hand if it weren't for Joe."

Much of the money may have come from several hundred thousand dollars Waldholtz was supposed to be investing for relatives like his grandmother, or from the more than $100,000 he is believed to have embezzled from Elsie Hillman, a Republican National Committeewoman in Pittsburgh for whom he had begun working as chief political aide by 1990. (No charges were filed.)

It certainly didn't come from any trust fund. Although Waldholtz's paternal grandfather was a diamond merchant, his roots were middle-class. His parents, dentist Harvey Waldholtz, 63, and his wife, Barbara, divorced when Joe was 5, and he and his older brother, Bruce, were put in their father's custody. He grew up Jewish, though he later told friends he was Episcopalian. At the University of Pittsburgh, where he took seven years to earn a degree in psychology, he got a taste of politics stuffing envelopes for George Bush.

In 1991, at a national Young Republicans convention, he met Enid, the daughter of D. Forrest Greene, a wealthy Mormon stockbroker, and his wife, Gerda. "They started out as friends, and it just blossomed into romance," says Hughes.

Moving to Utah, Joe helped manage Enid's losing 1992 bid for Congress and was organizing her second run when they wed. "A lot of friends were concerned that the focus of their marriage was their mutual desire for politics, and that isn't a lot to base a marriage on," concedes friend Adams. "But he really made her happy, and he seemed to worship the ground she walked on."

With the federal scrutiny brought on by Enid's 1994 election, Joe's fairy tale of unlimited funds began to unravel. He was frequently late with the rent on their Georgetown townhouse, and often blamed wire transfers and bank mixups for bounced checks. (He once even pinned a missed payment on the family dog that he said had eaten a check.) As the news media began researching rumors of financial improprieties, friends say Waldholtz urged his wife to resign. "He wanted to take off the pressure," says Hughes.

An indictment on the check-kiting charges could come any time, and new allegations surface almost daily. Joe ran up $45,000 on a staffer's credit card. He shifted a $4,700 hotel bill to a friend's American Express.

If investigators discover Enid knew about the financial irregularities, she could face charges too. But the damage to her career may have already been done. A poll by The Salt Lake Tribune indicated 36 percent of her constituents feel she should resign now, and 61 percent think she should not run for a second term in 1996. "Enid could have put a stop to this a long time ago," says Steve Taggart, her campaign press secretary, who resigned in 1994 over concerns about the financial chaos. "She definitely knows more than she's letting on."

CYNTHIA SANZ
CATHY FREE in Salt Lake City, MARY ESSELMAN and SARAH SKOLNIK in Washington and DEBORAH PAPIER in Pittsburgh

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