Thursday, July 19, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa tax shelter schemer too fat for his prison term, attorney says

TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced two Bay area men to prison terms last week for peddling an offshore tax shelter scheme that cost the IRS an estimated $10 million.

But on Monday, one of the men’s attorneys protested the outcome, indelicately filing a motion that suggests his client is too fat for prison.

Stephen Donaldson Sr., 72, doesn’t have an average man’s life expectancy because he is 5-foot-9 and weighs 273 pounds, attorney Curtis Fallgatter wrote, and therefore it isn’t right to make him serve six years and four months, a term that could translate to 61 percent of Donaldson’s remaining time on earth.

Conspirator Duane Crithfield, 70, was sentenced to four years and six months. His weight was not brought up.

The obesity defense was the latest turn in a case that has taken more than four years to prosecute.

Crithfield and Donaldson were accused of marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

Purchasers would pay a premium and claim the cost as a business expense but would later reclaim about 85 percent of the premium if misfortune did not come their way. That spared them paying a much higher marginal tax rate on the earnings.

A separate hearing will be held at a later date to determine restitution.

Both men have asked to remain free while they appeal. Neither has been booked yet or posed for a mug shot at the Pinellas County Jail, which often holds federal detainees.

Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen D. Merryday presided over their nonjury trial in June 2016 and filed his 36-page decision in July 2017, using it to poke at America’s complicated tax code, which he called "a bloated and opaque monstrosity."

BACK STORY: In deciding fraud case, Tampa judge blasts tax code as ‘bloated and opaque monstrosity’

Early last year, he threw out the men’s signed, adjudicated plea deals — against their wishes — after defense attorneys began downplaying their clients’ criminal conduct and the resulting loss to the IRS. That led the judge to conclude there was no meeting of the minds.

Had the plea deal remained intact, Crithfield and Donaldson would have faced no more than three years each in prison — that, for a single count of helping a Sarasota anesthesiologist make a false statement on his corporate tax return.

The case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay G. Trezevant and Megan K. Kistler.

Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected]

Comments
Dive outing among friends turns deadly Wednesday evening in Weeki Wachee

Dive outing among friends turns deadly Wednesday evening in Weeki Wachee

WEEKI WACHEE — It was the first time Said Marjane and his friends had gone free diving near the Eagle’s Nest, in a pool of water in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area in Weeki Wachee better known as the entrance to a dangerous cave-diving si...
Updated: 17 minutes ago

Sponsored content: Find Your Outdoor Summer Oasis with Taylor Morrison

There’s no better way to soak up the Florida sun than with a gorgeous outdoor living space thoughtfully designed for your comfort and easy living. National homebuilder and developer, Taylor Morrison, offers a wide range of outdoor living spaces and o...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Winn-Dixie remodeled in Tampa opens as sixth made-over store this year

Winn-Dixie remodeled in Tampa opens as sixth made-over store this year

TAMPA — Winn-Dixie unveiled another remodeled store, the sixth in the area, after promising to remodel much of its chain following its emergence from bankruptcy this year.The made-over store at 805 E. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. has a host of ne...
Updated: 23 minutes ago

Car thefts continue in Pinellas, this time in Tarpon Springs

TARPON SPRINGS — Police officers arrested five people, including three kids, accused of stealing a Lexus from St. Petersburg and trying to break into cars 30 miles north in Tarpon Springs.According to Tarpon Springs police, officers about 1:30 a.m. s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Pinellas infant on life support after father stuffs balled-up baby wipe down his throat

Police: Pinellas infant on life support after father stuffs balled-up baby wipe down his throat

A 5-month-old boy is on life support after his father stuffed a balled-up baby wipe down his throat, Tarpon Springs police reported.The incident occurred Tuesday evening at an undisclosed address in Tarpon Springs. Police said the boy’s mother return...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Facebook says it will start removing posts that may lead to violence

Facebook says it will start removing posts that may lead to violence

Facebook will start removing misleading and inflammatory posts that may trigger violent attacks, as the social network said Wednesday, as it faces criticism over its response to sectarian conflict in countries such as Myanmar and Sri Lanka.Facebook s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rex Culpepper returns as Syracuse’s latest cancer conqueror

Rex Culpepper returns as Syracuse’s latest cancer conqueror

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Initially, Syracuse senior Eric Dungey thought it was a joke in poor taste. He had come to accept fellow quarterback Rex Culpepper as a prankster of sorts, but a crack about cancer? C'mon."I was like, 'You took this one t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Starbucks to open its first U.S. sign language store

Starbucks to open its first U.S. sign language store

WASHINGTON — Starbucks has more than 8,000 stores nationwide. One of them will soon be run entirely in American Sign Language.Starbucks’ first signing store in the United States will hire 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners with the r...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

Deep-fried wonders at Plant City Strawberry Festival to be featured on Cooking Channel

The Cooking Channel series features host Noah Cappe as he marvels at the "gastronomic freak shows" found at the carnivals, state fairs and festivals around the U.S. and Canada. Crews from the show went to tiny Plant City in March to document its hug...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

It was Dec. 20, 1981, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season, and the NFC Central title was on the line. The Buccaneers were in Detroit, where the Lions hadn’t lost all season.The Lions, who were favored by a touchdown, took a 7-3 lead in t...
Updated: 2 hours ago