Bangor chiropractor gets two years for tax evasion

Posted Nov. 16, 2009, at 8:14 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A local chiropractor was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to two years in federal prison for refusing to pay federal income taxes.

Dr. Richard J. Thomas, 65, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay more than $15,000 to the Internal Revenue Service for the taxes he did not pay in 2001.

Thomas was indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2006 — four years after he attempted to quash an IRS subpoena seeking records — on six counts of tax evasion between 1995 and 2001. In a plea agreement with prosecutors last February, he agreed to plead guilty to the count that applied to 2001. The five counts covering the previous years were dismissed Monday after his sentencing.

“While you were shirking your duty to pay taxes,” U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said in sentencing the chiropractor, “your fellow citizens were doing their part. Your fellow citizens, Dr. Thomas, not you, paid for our national defense, the roads you drive on, the education you received in your early life, the protection of our borders, the subsidized loan you received to go to college, the support for the elderly that includes your own mother.

“All this time, you, Dr. Thomas, continued to enjoy the unparalleled benefits of this great country,” the judge continued, “but failed to recognize that with rights comes responsibility, including, Dr. Thomas, the most basic one — your obligation to pay your fair share for the services we all receive.”

Woodcock said that while refusing to pay taxes, Thomas continued to tithe to his church. The judge also pointed out that the defendant’s brothers both have businesses that regularly deal with tax issues.

“Dr. Thomas, I have heard the pleas to not put you in prison,” the judge said. “I cannot do that. The length of time over which this crime occurred, the amount of taxes you failed to pay and your fundamental disregard of the basic obligation of citizenship require me to punish you as I would punish someone who took money from the government.”

Woodcock stayed Thomas’ sentence until February 2010 at the defendant’s request.

The chiropractor is not facing similar charges in state court, according to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of evading the payment of state income taxes.

Thomas faced up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the federal charges. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, the chiropractor’s recommended sentence would range from two to 2½ years in prison. Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy urged the judge to sentence Thomas to two years.

Federal Public Defender Virginia Villa, who represented the chiropractor, asked Woodcock not to send her client to prison but instead to go outside the sentencing guidelines to fashion a sentence that included home confinement and community service.

Villa said after the sentencing that more than a dozen of Thomas’ patients attended the sentencing to speak on his behalf. They urged the judge not to impose a prison sentence and described a caring, supportive doctor who had donated his services and been available on nights and weekends for emergencies.

Several patients, according to Villa, told Woodcock that without Thomas’ care they would not have been able to walk, let alone appear in the courtroom Monday.

The attorney said that Thomas would not be able to reopen his practice once he is released from prison because of licensing requirements that he keep up with continuing education in his field.

Thomas also is subject to civil action by the IRS for more than $400,000 in back taxes, fines and interest, McCarthy said after the sentencing.

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