U.S. First Circuit - The FindLaw 1st Circuit Court of Appeals News and Information Blog

No Errors in Incestuous Fraud Tax Evasion Case

In a case that is almost too difficult to describe without breaking the blogging boundaries of decency, a doctor's criminal convictions for tax evasion, distributing drugs, and fraud have been upheld by the First Circuit.

The case of Dr. Joel Sabaen, convicted back in 2016, is a curious one. The criminal convictions all stem from conduct he engaged in with his adult daughter. The tax evasion related to over $2 million he gave her over a five year period of time. The drug charges stem from the bogus narcotics prescriptions he wrote for her. And while this may not seem so wild, the reasons why he filed an appeal certainly highlight the most degenerate aspects of his case.

Degenerate Details

The court's opinion is hard to stop reading once you start. It opens with the following line, which is likely to peak almost anyone's interest:

This case, which reads like an anthology of pain, pathos, and personal degradation, paints a grim picture of the human condition.

While Sabaen, like nearly any other father, would give their daughter almost anything, he was "hemorrhaging" money (according to his wife and bookkeeper). Apparently, he was sending her anywhere between $500 and $1,500 per day. Though he claimed to his bookkeeper that his adult daughter was still a dependent for tax purposes due to various medical ailments, this was as far from the truth as it can get. He claimed she suffered from temporary brain death, amputated limbs, and tumors. In reality, as the court pointed out, she spent the money on drugs, gambling, and gifts for her boyfriend.

When push came to shove, the doc tried to exclude evidence about the incestuous relationship he had with his daughter, which prosecutors pressed as the true motive for his sending the money and drug prescriptions. There were rather salacious emails back and forth, and a not so overt implication that the money being sent was hush money. Sabaen tried to claim that allowing this, and other similarly damning evidence, was prejudicial error. The appellate court, like the trial court, disagreed.

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