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Woman who allegedly assisted suicides sentenced for tax evasion

Many times prosecutors in Florida will use evidence of fraud, such as mail fraud or tax fraud, in order to avoid having to prosecute someone on charges that are either more difficult to prove which have less likelihood of a conviction or which cannot be charged in federal court.

Federal prosecutors decided to make a deal with a 92-year-old woman for her failure to report income of approximately $150,000. The tax evasion charges date back to 2007. She pleaded guilty to these charges, and was recently sentenced to five years supervised probation, in addition to having to pay the back taxes she owes on the income she earned.

What is interesting about this story is that this woman earned a portion of that income from creating "suicide kits" in her home. She says she started making these kits in order to help those who were suffering from a terminal illness to end their lives. She allegedly sold at least 50 of these kits for approximately $50 each.

Without taking a broader stand against assisted suicide, federal prosecutors hoped to end her participation in the manufacture of these kits by obtaining a court order precluding her from engaging in assisted suicides, even as an advisor. Since assisted suicide is not currently a federal crime, any charges on that front would have to be filed in state court. But under the terms of the plea agreement, state prosecutors will not file charges in connection with six of the alleged assisted suicides.

Instead, prosecutors reached the plea deal for the conviction on the federal tax evasion charges, sending the message that tax evasion can be used to criminally prosecute individuals who may be involved in other possible criminal activity.

Source: CBS News, "Woman, 92, sold 'suicide kits,' gets sentenced for tax evasion," Barry Leibowitz, May 9, 2012.

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