News

Palo Alto psychologist convicted of tax evasion

Private practice owner omitted income produced between 2005 and 2009

A federal jury has convicted a Palo Alto psychologist of five counts of tax evasion and one count of theft of government property, federal officials announced on Feb. 5.

Hugh Leslie Baras, 69, a Berkeley resident with an office on Cambridge Avenue in Palo Alto, was convicted on Feb. 4, United States Attorney Melinda Haag's office said.

Baras formerly worked as a psychologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland and as an adjunct clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. He started a solo, private practice in Palo Alto in late 2002.

Evidence presented during the seven-day trial showed that Baras's private practice made more than $1 million between 2005 and 2009. He filed timely federal income tax returns for each of these years, but he omitted all of the income produced by his private practice.

For each of the years he filed, he claimed to have made between $30,000 and about $57,000. But his private practice instead earned more than $182,000 and $301,722. He paid a total of $29,534 in taxes, but he owed $406,447 for those five years, court documents show.

Baras was diagnosed in 2001 with polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disease that causes pain and stiffness in certain parts of the body. He was unable to walk through the Kaiser hospital in Oakland to see his patients, according to defense documents. He began his private practice again when he felt better.

Although he was self-employed and earning substantial income, he continued to collect Disability Insurance Benefits from the Social Security Administration. Between 2006 and 2009, he received payments totaling $80,615.80 to which he was not entitled, Haag and Jose Martinez, the IRS criminal investigation special agent in charge, said in a written statement.

Baras's defense claimed that medications he took for his disability, including steroids and opiates, affected his mental status, judgment and cognition, which likely caused the type of financial lapses in which he engaged.

After IRS agents confronted him in 2010, Baras began repaying the amounts he owed. He has now paid back the undeclared income and disability payments, according to defense documents.

Prosecutors claimed that Baras deliberately hid his income by structuring deposits and cashing checks over time so he would avoid the federal cash-reporting requirement banks make for amounts in excess of $10,000.

Baras is scheduled for sentencing on May 22 in Oakland. He faces a maximum of 35 years in federal prison and $1.5 million in fines.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Creole 54
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm

The rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. I bet you he doesn't spend a day in jail. The Federal Government and State of California will wiretap drug peddlers cell phones and purchase a small amount of drugs - the accuser gets "Life in Prison or close to it."

White Collar Crime vs Street Crime what a huge difference.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by afluenza
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

At least he didn't try the afluenza defense (an alleged mental illness that prevents rich people from understanding right from wrong).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Is this really fair? I'm sure a lot of folks have tax problems and issues, I don't think it's the general public's business. But that's just me maybe.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Your health insurance dollars at work.

Don't ask me how I really feel.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Poor richies
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm

The worst that will happen is Club Fed. Chances are he will walk away scot-free.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Looser hater
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 8, 2014 at 1:54 am

Think he will loose his license to practice now? He MUST have some type of attitude which could pass onto his clients...who come in for HELP.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by One of Many
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 8:24 pm

What Dr. Baras did was wrong, yes, but it was done out of desperation. Do any of you have any idea who this man is or how many people he has helped? More often not, entirely pro bono. He doesn't charge for phone conversations or any little extras, he's not a watch clinger and he's the farthest you could get from being stingy with time. I'm sure it's obvious so I'll admit, yes, I've seen Dr. Baras as a patient. His stubborn determination to not give up on me when everyone else absolutely saved my life. Above and beyond, that's two words that describe everything about this genuinely good person. To those crying "poor richies", oh, and the fantastically ironic "looser hater", you do not know this man at all. He's no stranger to strife, just like every other person on earth, but I suspect he's had more than a fair share and come out of to do what? Selflessly help people, like me and you. Out of respect for this man, you ought to think before simply spouting out impulsive, cookie-cutter talk that adds nothing to the discussion and breaks down into a useless (and baseless) smearfest of this man's reputation. In answer to "looser hater"s question, I would go in for a session tomorrow. I'd continue to refer him to friends. I hope the staff monitors will be extra careful in removing disrespectful and denigratory comments.


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