Hoover chiropractor sentenced; filed $4.2 million in false IRS refunds
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The last of four former correctional officers charged in the beating death of an Alabama inmate goes on trial today in Montgomery.
A Hoover chiropractor, whose lawyers say was “bamboozled” by the Patriot and Sovereign Citizen movements during a low point of his life, was sentenced Tuesday to serve five years on federal probation for trying to block an IRS investigation into his bogus tax refund claims of nearly $4.2 million.
Gary Forrest Edwards, 56, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler to pay a $25,000 fine and perform 8 hours of free chiropractic care for indigent patients each week for a year, if he retains his license. If he doesn’t keep his chiropractic license Edwards must provide some other type of community service, the judge said.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Edwards also has corrected tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service for the years 2005, 2006, and 2008 and all years he failed to file one, his attorneys said. Edwards also will be paying the IRS more than $2 million for back taxes owed, said James Parkman, one of Edwards’ attorneys.
Parkman said Alabama’s chiropractic licensing board has not yet taken any action to revoke or suspend Edwards’ license.
“The judge got it right and we are very happy with the outcome,” Clayton Tartt, another attorney representing Edwards, said after the sentencing.
Coogler said he had been ready to send Edwards to prison for 18 months if not for a recommendation by an assistant U.S. Attorney for probation.
“I don’t think you deserve probation,” Coogler said. “It would be a big, big mistake for you to come back before me again,” the judge warned Edwards.
“Obviously I made a series of tremendously bad decisions” -Gary Edwards
Edwards apologized for his actions. “Obviously I made a series of tremendously bad decisions,” he said.
Edwards had pleaded guilty to one count of Corruptly Endeavoring to Obstruct or Impede the Due Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws. That count dealt with letters Edwards sent to banks and others in 2010 and 2011 threatening legal action if they complied with summons from IRS agents investigating him – a few of them after he had been warned. He also sent a threatening letter to an IRS agent, according to Edwards’ plea agreement.
Three other counts involving the filing of false tax returns totaling $4,177,891 were dismissed in the plea deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Edwards had falsely claimed that various financial institutions had withheld tax money on his behalf and he was entitled to a refund, court records show. The IRS did not refund any money to Edwards.
In 2003 Edwards was lured into the Patriot and Sovereign Citizen movements during a low point of his life when he was fighting to clear his name of allegations in Missouri involving his treatment of an AIDS patient, Edwards’ attorneys said.
Sovereign citizens, experts say, are individuals who do not believe in federal laws, taxation, or state or federal entities but use court filings to tie up the legal system.
Edwards had treated a Mennonite man, Duane Troyer, who had contracted HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – through a blood transfusion, according to court documents. That help included putting Troyer on a nutritional plan. Troyer died in 1992.
Troyer’s mother-in-law several years later claimed Edwards had told Troyer he was cured and could start raising a family and that eventually led in 1998 to Missouri’s chiropractic licensing board taking action to suspend Edwards’ license. Troyer’s child died of AIDS and his wife contracted HIV.
An investigator for the Missouri board, however, did not learn that Troyer had been referred for treatment with Edwards after Troyer’s wife and infant daughter were infected with HIV, “conduct inconsistent with a belief that Dr. Edwards had “caused” Regina and her daughter to contract HIV,” a Missouri appeals court stated in a ruling in 2012.
Edwards appealed the Missouri Chiropractic licensing board’s suspension of his license and eventually the board dropped the charge against him. Edwards sued the board for gross negligence and won a nearly $6.3 million verdict. A Missouri appeals court upheld the verdict in January 2012 and Edwards got money from the verdict later that same year.
“While I did feel vindicated that in the end the justice system proved that I was in the right and the Missouri licensing board was in the wrong, my life was still devastated. No amount of money could ever repair the damage that had been done to me and my family,” according to a statement issued by Edwards after today’s sentencing.
As he was fighting with the Missouri board Edwards, a Selma native, and his wife moved back to Alabama, his attorneys said.
With his practice destroyed in Missouri, and mounting debt, the couple was living in a trailer at the time in 2003 when he was introduced into the Sovereign Citizen and Patriot movements, Edwards’ attorneys said. In 2005 Edwards re-opened a practice in Alabama.
Parkman told the judge that from that point, and for nearly a decade, Edwards spent about $50,000 on books, videos, and seminars from members of the Sovereign Citizen and Patriot movements. Many of the materials involved tax schemes, he said.
“It will get you sucked right in,” Parkman said of the movements.
“By the time he figured out that everything he was paying to learn about the Patriot Movement/Sovereign Citizens was bogus it was too late,” Tartt wrote in a sentencing memorandum to Coogler.
“Looking back—Mr. Edwards realizes that he was bamboozled,” Tartt wrote. “He believed everything that these lessons on the Patriot Movement had taught him, even going as far at points to believe that he was not a U.S. citizen subject to the laws of the United States. He now realizes that all of the things he paid to learn are patently false. He accepts full responsibility for his actions.”