A jury failed to reach a verdict Thursday after deliberating for a fourth day in the trial of a prominent dermatologist accused of tax evasion and violating federal laws on distributing controlled substances.

Dr. Joel Sabean has been on trial in U.S. District Court in Portland since Nov. 1. The jury was handed the case Monday and through Thursday had deliberated for more than 34 hours without reaching a verdict.

Federal Judge George Z. Singal sent jurors home shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday and told them to return at 8 a.m. Friday. Testimony and closing arguments wrapped up around midday Monday and jurors deliberated until 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

On Tuesday, jurors indicated that they were deadlocked on at least some of the charges, but Singal encouraged them to continue. Defense lawyers moved again Thursday for a mistrial, as they had Tuesday and Wednesday, and Singal again turned them down.

Sabean is accused of sending millions of dollars to a family member in Florida and then writing off the payments as medical expenses on his taxes, shaving $900,000 from his tax bills.

He is also accused of making out dozens of prescriptions for the woman, who was not his patient, in violation of federal drug laws. Sabean is also charged with health care fraud for putting some of the prescriptions in his wife’s name so insurance would cover part of the cost.

On Tuesday, jurors asked to have the testimony of two witnesses read back to them. The first testimony was from a defense witness who testified that Sabean had multiple psychiatric problems, and the second was from a psychiatrist testifying for prosecutors, who said Sabean had no serious psychiatric disorders.

Sabean made multiple payments to the family member over the course of five years, purportedly to pay for multiple medical procedures, including heart and kidney transplants.

The woman said that the payments were to keep her quiet about sexual abuse by Sabean that she alleges began when she was 12 or 13. She is now 41.

She said she and Sabean came up with the idea of fabricating medical bills to explain the payments to Sabean’s wife and workers in his South Portland dermatology practice, who began to question the frequent and large payments to the relative.

The woman said that, in addition to keeping her quiet, Sabean also sent the money so she would continue to exchange sexually explicit emails and photos with the doctor. The woman said she eventually invented a fake “Nurse Mary” to correspond with Sabean. At one point, Sabean said he planned to propose to the invented woman – the family member said that was all part of the fantasy invented at Sabean’s request, but defense lawyers called it an example of the female family member duping him.

Sabean’s lawyers said the woman took advantage of the doctor’s psychological problems to convince him to send money. Sabean sent the funds by wire, pre-paid debit and credit cards, joint bank accounts and a PayPal account.

Sabean has not been charged with sexual abuse. The Portland Press Herald does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse without their consent.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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