For five straight years, a wealthy South Florida doctor cheated on his taxes by failing to report an astronomical $18 million of income that he used to pay for his oceanfront Manalapan mansion, interior design improvements and tuition for his children, federal authorities say.
On Wednesday, prominent Palm Beach County gastroenterologist Krishna Tripuraneni pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to a charge of tax evasion in a plea agreement that could send him to prison for three years at his sentencing in March.
Tripuraneni, standing next to his defense attorney, Roy Black, pleaded guilty to filing a false income-tax return for 2006, but was held liable for unpaid taxes between 2004 and 2008 under the agreement. His tax bill, with interest and penalties, added up to more than $11.8 million.
Black told U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles that the 56-year-old physician already paid about $10.2 million to the Internal Revenue Service in recent months but that he still owes the penalty. The balance due: more than $1.6 million.
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Gayles pointed out to Tripuraneni , a U.S. citizen, that he will lose his right to vote, serve on a jury or own a gun as result of pleading guilty to the felony crime. But the judge caught himself when he informed the rich physician, who lives in a 16,000-square-foot mansion with tennis court and pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, about something else he would sacrifice.
“You lose your eligibility to live in public housing, though I don’t think that’s an issue,” Gayles told the physician.
According to a statement filed with his plea agreement, Tripuraneni acknowledged he used “funds” from his gastroenterology practice in Wellington and two other Palm Beach County medical businesses “to pay for expenses” on his new Manalapan home, other real estate investments and tuition payments. The oceanfront home is valued at $12 million, public records show.
“Some of these payments were then classified as professional consulting, building repairs and miscellaneous expenses by the companies,” said the statement, signed by the physician, his defense attorney and prosecutor Christopher Clark.
“These payments resulted in falsified profit and loss statements being provided to the tax return preparer” for both his corporate and personal returns, the statement said. “These returns were false in that the corporate returns included fraudulent business expenses...thereby understating the defendant’s total income and the tax due and owing on his person return.”
As a result, the physician’s income taxes owed for 2004-2008 totaled about $6.4 million, without interest and penalties. The highest taxes due — more than $1.5 million — were for 2006. He only pleaded guilty for that year’s return, filed jointly with his wife, Nirmala.
After the plea hearing, Black told the Miami Herald that his client would be able to keep his state medical license because he did not commit his crime while practicing his profession.
The tax-evasion charges, first filed against Tripuraneni in late 2013 in federal court in West Palm Beach, resulted from an IRS and FBI criminal investigation.
Tripuraneni, who obtained his Florida medical license in 1993, has no history of disciplinary action, according to the state Department of Health Web site. According to his biography, Tripuraneni obtained his medical degree from Osmania Medical College in India and specializes in gastroenterology at Wellington Regional Medical Center and Palms West Hospital.
Another prominent South Florida doctor, Alan Mendelsohn, was able to resume practicing medicine after he pleaded guilty in late 2010 to a similar tax-evasion charge and served a four-year sentence.
Mendelsohn, a Hollywood eye doctor and onetime GOP fundraiser, conspired to defraud the U.S. government by failing to report about $700,000 of income he had secretly diverted from campaign donations and lobbying clients.