A man whose father once ran afoul of the law in a notorious Baltimore County embezzlement case is in deep trouble of his own -- charged with murder in Florida and using the dead man's credit cards to fund a ski trip to Colorado.
Michael Claude Diffenderffer, 26, formerly of Ruxton, is awaiting extradition from Steamboat Springs, Colo. He is the son of the late Ross B. Diffenderffer, a Baltimore County housing administrator convicted of stealing $187,723 from a rent subsidy program in the early 1980s.
The younger Diffenderffer, who had been living in a West Palm Beach, Fla., condominium, was charged Thursday with killing a former co-worker, Jeffrey Uber, 33.
Mr. Uber, of Boca Raton, was shot three times after going to meet with Michael Diffenderffer to collect a debt, authorities said. Mr. Uber's body was found stuffed in a large plastic tool box at a Florida rental warehouse.
Arrest papers charge that Michael Diffenderffer took Mr. Uber's credit cards and bought $800 worth of clothes at a West Palm Beach-area mall. The arrest papers also charge that he used the cards to pay for a $4,400 trip to Steamboat Springs with his girlfriend.
At the time of the killing, Michael Diffenderffer had been cooperating with the U.S. government in supplying information about a stolen credit card ring, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Fernandez in Miami. He was sentenced Dec. 9, 1994, to six months' home detention and three years' probation in a plot that stole 49 credit cards from travelers at West Palm Beach International Airport, where the suspect was a baggage handler, Mr. Fernandez said.
"He had been working with the government and delivered four other people" in the scheme, Mr. Fernandez said. Before the credit card conviction in December, Michael Diffenderffer had no criminal record and no history of violence or mental problems, Mr. Fernandez said.
His father, Ross Diffenderffer, was a respected ally of former Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson. He spent two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1982 to misappropriating federal money from the Baltimore County housing programs he ran for nine years.
He died in 1991 after living his last years as a poor, sick man, according to friends and political associates.
It is unclear if the condominium where Michael Diffenderffer lived had been bought by his father. In 1982, prosecutors tried to seize a West Palm Beach condo and other properties they believed were purchased with the stolen money.
But the state recovered less than 30 percent of the restitution owed because all the property was in the name of Ross Diffenderffer's wife, Rita Shirley Diffenderffer.
Ms. Diffenderffer couldn't be reached for comment yesterday. Other relatives said that the large contingent of Diffenderffers -- there are more than 20 in the Baltimore area -- have been steadily bashed by negative publicity.
l "The Diffenderffer family name has been dragged through the mud so badly because of what Ross did. Now, we'll have to go through it all over again," said one relative, who asked that his name not be used.