Retired pediatric California dentist gets prison for $644K tax fraud scheme

Retired pediatric dentist Bruce Baker, DMD, was sentenced June 7 to 15 months in prison after pleading guilty to evading over $644,000 in taxes.

Between 2004 and 2018, the 75-year-old dentist falsely reported more than $2.6 million in charitable donations, and former Chabad of Poway (Calif.) Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein funneled around $2.4 million back to him.

Mr. Goldstein, the former director and head rabbi at tax-exempt Chabad of Poway, gave Dr. Baker nearly 90 percent of his purported "donations." With this money, Dr. Baker paid for his child's private school tuition, his son's dental school, and renovations and supplies.

Separately, Dr. Baker agreed with another local religious leader to make a sham donation of an ancient Iranian Torah valued at $1.2 million. Dr. Baker secured a tax deduction of $1.2 million, but the Torah didn't actually exist and no donation was ever made.

"The magnitude of Mr. Baker's tax evasion, which he committed over decades, is appalling," said Ryan Korner, IRS criminal investigation special agent.

Both the prosecution and defense noted Dr. Baker's remorse over the crime, his age and his poor health in recommending what punishment he should receive. The defense asked for five years of probation, six months of home confinement and volunteer service, which the dentist indicated could include free dental services for the poor and training for prospective dentists, according to a sentencing memo cited by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant said, "It's very important to send a message to the community that if you do something like this, you will spend some time in custody," noting Dr. Baker's education and how long the crime occurred. Dr. Baker will report to prison July 28. 

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