Marathon Hearing Finally Results In Sentence For 13-Year Fugitive Doctor
HOUSTON – A former doctor who was a fugitive for more than 13 years has been handed his sentence for filing a false income tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Steven Louis Price pleaded guilty Dec. 19, 2013.
Price became a fugitive when he failed to appear in court on this case on Dec. 16, 1999. He remained a fugitive until his surrender to the U.S. Marshals Service on March 20, 2013.
The sentencing concluded late yesterday following a total 15-hour hearing that transpired over the course of two days. During that time, U.S. District Judge Nancy F. Atlas heard testimony and evidence from the government detailing the level of criminal activity and fraud Price had perpetrated.
Former employees provided testimony about the criminal activity at his clinic but also spoke about his overall credibility and his level of deceit beyond the workplace. For example, one described an instance in which he had purchased tickets for her, a fellow employee and that employee’s children to travel to DisneyWorld as a bonus for work. However, he provided a letter to the airline prior to their flight, cited his medical license and described the children as having a growth disorder which made them appear older than they were so as to secure reduced rate tickets for them. He also repeated the claim at Disneyworld so as to get reduced rate admission tickets and further used his medical credentials to claim he was handicapped and needed a wheelchair while at DisneyWorld in order to proceed to the front of the lines while there.
Others also testified that he had several rental properties and would not accept anything other than cash in payments so as to avoid reporting the income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Even though Price had previously pleaded guilty to his criminal behavior, his defense contested the amount of money for which he should be held responsible and should not have to pay. The defense also contended he was absent from justice for so long because he had a panic attack on the day of his initial appearance in 1999, suffered from severe depression and had no recollection of the entire 13 years he was considered a fugitive. The defense provided a psychologist to testify on his behalf, but he could provide no verification for the information provided by Price which formed the basis for his conclusions nor confirmation of any suicide attempts or lack of memory.
The government also provided testimony from a woman who was with Price prior to his initial court appearance. She testified that he asked her to meet him at a local bank where he emerged with a large package. Upon questioning from the government, she stated she believed the package was full of money. Shortly thereafter, Price fled.
The government informed the court that the time had arrived to give Price “a dose of judicial medicine,” claiming he used his medical license “not to heal, but to steal and lie.”
Ultimately, after commenting about the extraordinary duration of the sentencing hearing, Judge Atlas handed Price a sentence of 24 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by a one year-term of supervised release. The sentence was enhanced after the court found he had obstructed the administration of justice and that his criminal activity involved workmen’s compensation fraud. He was further ordered to pay $80,603.32 in restitution to the IRS.
The investigation established Price willfully made materially false statements in his 1992 federal income tax return by understating gross income derived from his medical practice. The Investigation further determined Price willfully understated Schedule C gross receipts derived from his medical practice on his federal income tax return by at least $80,603.32. Price received the majority of this income from attorneys and insurance companies paying worker’s compensation or automobile accident claims. In order to conceal this income, Price cashed many of the checks and used the proceeds to purchase cashier’s checks.
He will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation was conducted by IRS-Criminal Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel C. Rodriguez.