A Russian woman living in Santa Fe is suing her estranged German-born husband, claiming he beat her, threatened her and held her captive on his ranch 60 miles east of Las Vegas, N.M.
Irina Arkhangelskaya, 50, seeks civil damages from Josef Pfauntsch, 65, in the unusual “complaint to recover damages for personal injury caused by battery” filed last week in state District Court.
According to Arkhangelskaya’s complaint for damages, on Oct. 15, 2009, Pfauntsch “severely and violently beat” her, so she met with a domestic violence advocate, called law enforcement and spent the night at a hotel in Las Vegas, N.M. Pfauntsch was arrested the next day on a charge of battery against a household member.
Arkhangelskaya stayed at a Santa Fe shelter for battered women for six weeks. According to the complaint, Pfauntsch then called her, promising to get counseling, to treat her with respect and to work on the marriage, so, being “alone in the United States with limited English language skills and without any means of support,” Arkhangelskaya returned to the ranch.
The complaint says that as the court date neared for the charge of battery, Pfauntsch demanded she drop the charge, and when she refused, he locked the driveway gate, blocked her car with his truck, let the air out of her car’s tires and cut its electrical cables with an ax.
Pfauntsch then beat her, choked her, shoved dirt in her mouth and dragged her to a creek bed, saying “no witness — no crime,” according to the complaint. After he saw how much she was bleeding, he stopped, so she flagged down a driver passing by the residence, who took her to a domestic-violence office in Las Vegas, where she filed another police report, got medical attention and checked into a hotel.
The complaint says she went to the court hearing the next day, but he did not show up, so the judge issued a warrant for him on new charges of false imprisonment and aggravated battery on a household member. She stayed in a shelter in Taos for the next week and, when he was jailed again, went to the ranch to get her things and returned to the Santa Fe shelter.
Arkhangelskaya obtained an order of protection against Pfauntsch, but he violated it Sept. 2, 2010, by visiting her in her apartment in Santa Fe and spent another 20 days in jail for that infraction, the complaint says.
Online court records substantiate the criminal charges against Pfauntsch mentioned in the lawsuit filed Nov. 26 by Jack Hardwick of the Sommer, Udall, Sutin, Hardwick & Hyatt firm. Hardwick did not respond to a telephone message seeking comment for this article.
The records also indicate Arkhangelskaya petitioned to divorce Pfauntsch on Dec. 16, 2009, in state District Court in Las Vegas. Judge Matthew Sandoval dismissed the case for lack of prosecution Aug. 7, then reinstated it Sept. 7. Arkhangelskaya’s latest lawyer in the divorce case is Mary Jo Snyder of Santa Fe.
An Oct. 25 letter from Snyder to Pfauntsch says if Arkhangelskaya proceeds with the divorce, he will need to finance his ranch so he can get the money to hand over her share. But the letter, which Pfauntsch forwarded to The New Mexican, also suggests that if the divorce were put on hold in favor of a continued legal separation, he could instead agree to pay her medical expenses, allow her to keep what is called her “cow money” and pay her $2,000 a month in living expenses.
Pfauntsch said his wife of six years is “trying to bleed me” by stealing from him and filing the lawsuit a month after offering to reconcile with him in exchange for more money.
“I’m not a violent person, and whatever she’s doing, she’s doing [it] for money and she’s trying to extort as much as possible,” he said. “What I want people to [do] is to take a serious look at … what her real motives are.”
At least one mutual acquaintance of Pfauntsch and Arkhangelskaya said she sympathizes with Pfauntsch in the marital war.
“She’s a very greedy person, and she wants to get as much as possible,” said the Russian-born woman who lives in Santa Fe and preferred not to be identified. “She has an incredible sense of entitlement, which came from her Soviet upbringing.
“I don’t think she intended to scam. I think she genuinely loved him when they started the relationship, but what she is doing is disgusting.”
After a divorce in 2005, Pfauntsch began corresponding online with Arkhangelskaya, then traveled to Russia to meet her. As a German who immigrated to the United States in 1963, Pfauntsch said he wanted to visit the country Germany devastated in World War II, and Arkhangelskaya seemed to take advantage of his feelings of guilt.
In October 2006, the two married in Moscow. After living in her condo and traveling for nine months, they moved to New Mexico, where Pfauntsch owned a ranch in rural San Miguel County near Trementina. Pfauntsch, a laid-off executive with a Denver information-management company, said he had bought the ranch because his former wife liked to keep horses.
Arkhangelskaya, a pharmacist and former lieutenant colonel in the Russian military prison system, “came here with good intentions, but this ranch is not Moscow,” Pfauntsch said. “She made a few conditions, like I have to finish the house before we can travel. … She had these long conversations with some of her friends in Moscow about how I should do things.
“She wanted to buy a house in Santa Fe, and I wanted to stay here until I got the house finished and then let the market recover a little bit and leave, but she wanted to force it, so she forced it after she found out from somebody that she could get half of everything, and now she wants half of everything.”
Pfauntsch also charged that Arkhangelskaya is scamming the government by claiming to be destitute so she can get food stamps, reduced tuition and other welfare benefits, without disclosing the $800 she collects in monthly rent for her condominium in Moscow, $1,300 a month from him and $50,000 he gave her.
Snyder, however, said Arkhangelskaya is not eligible for any welfare benefits or even to work, since she lacks a work visa. She added that Arkhangelskaya is taking classes at Santa Fe Community College to try to prepare to make a living because she lacks credentials to be a pharmacist in this country. Snyder denied Pfauntsch’s suggestion that her letter was an attempt at extortion.
“He signed a deed to her back in 2007 for his land, for her to come back here, and that deed is valid, and if he has to give her half of that land, if he had to give her her community share of that property, it could destroy him,” she said. “He has a real history of domestic violence in marriages, which have ended the same way in at least four or five previous relationships and, not too long ago, he was back online looking for another bride.”
An attempt to reach Arkhangelskaya at her business, Irina’s Cat Sitting Services, was not successful.
Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.