New Mexico Physician And Wife Sentenced On Federal Tax Evasion Convictions
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - An emergency room doctor and his wife were sentenced yesterday for tax evasion, announced Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Matters for the Justice Department’s Tax Division Ronald A. Cimino and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico Kenneth J. Gonzales. Dr. Mark E. Hopkins, 60, was sentenced to 120 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and Sharon June Hopkins, 60, was sentenced to 97 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.
The Hopkins’ jointly were ordered to pay $1,744.222.26 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Upon their release, the couple will be required to make $2,000 monthly payments to the IRS and to cooperate with the IRS in paying their taxes, past and present. Finally, the Hopkins’ were ordered to pay $965.84 for the cost of a video deposition taken during the course of the prosecution.
On Sept. 29, 2010, a federal jury sitting in Albuquerque, N.M., convicted the Hopkins’ of seven counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy. At the time, Mark Hopkins was an emergency room doctor at the Carlsbad Medical Center, and Sharon Hopkins was the owner of My Favorite New Mexico Foods LLC, a business that manufactured and sold traditional New Mexico foods throughout the United States. Before moving to Carlsbad in 2001, the couple resided in Roswell, N.M.
According to the allegations in the indictment and the evidence presented at trial, the Hopkins’ had not filed accurate personal tax returns since tax year 1997. They filed a “zero” tax return for tax year 1996, which reported no wages and requested a refund of all withholding. From Jan. 1, 1996, through Dec. 31, 2007, Dr. Hopkins earned more than $3 million in income from his work as an emergency room doctor and paid only $21.25 in federal income taxes on this income. At sentencing, the court determined the tax loss to be $2,171,018.57 for 1996 to 2007. The Hopkins’ also failed to file or pay state income tax to the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue during this time period.
At trial, the Hopkins’ claimed that Dr. Hopkins’ income from his employer was not taxable because it was simply an “exchange” of labor for time. The evidence at trial showed that the couple used a number of “tax defier” schemes such as directing Dr. Hopkins’ income to a purported religious entity, named Shalom Enterprises. However, the Hopkins’ paid a number of personal expenses such as their mortgage, credit cards and a timeshare in Mexico, out of the Shalom Enterprises bank account. The couple also titled bank accounts and their home in the names of “pure trusts.”
As shown at trial, Dr. Hopkins previously was pictured on the front page of the April 16, 2007, Carlsbad Current Argus, standing outside the post office the previous day protesting the payment of federal income taxes.
“Sentences like the one returned today, send a loud and clear message that those who use illegal tax schemes will be fully punished for their actions,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal Matters Cimino.
“No matter how much Dr. and Mrs. Hopkins disagreed with our tax system, they were still required to obey the law,” said U.S. Attorney Gonzales. “The sentences imposed on the Hopkins are appropriate given the type of manipulation and deception in which these two educated and skilled professionals engaged to evade paying taxes.”
Dawn Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, stated, “The severity of the sentences imposed on Mark and Sharon Hopkins should send a clear message to those who are undertaking elaborate steps to avoid paying their income taxes. Mark and Sharon Hopkins are both successful individuals and earned more than $3 million in income and have paid nothing in federal income taxes. Honest citizens should not foot the bill for people like the Hopkins.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul H. Spiers and U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, Trial Attorney Jed M. Silversmith prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Phoenix Field Office of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.