A former South Portland dermatologist convicted of tax evasion in a case marked by allegations of long-term sexual abuse of a family member and payments for her silence has filed for bankruptcy.

Joel A. Sabean and his wife, Karen Sabean, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, listing assets of $1.3 million and liabilities of nearly $2.3 million, including large sums owed to the Internal Revenue Services and to his lawyers.

Sabean was convicted in November of avoiding nearly $900,000 in taxes by transferring more than $2.3 million to a family member in Florida over a period of five years and then writing off the payments as medical expenses. He was also convicted of writing dozens of prescriptions for the female family member, who was not his patient, in violation of federal drug laws; and health care fraud, because he wrote some of the prescriptions in his wife’s name so their insurance would cover part of the cost.

Sabean has appealed the conviction, but an attempt to put off his two-year sentence while the appeal is pending was rejected by a federal judge in Portland.

He is due to report for prison Aug. 16. His lawyers said his plan was to be treated for prostate cancer, which was diagnosed after his conviction, before reporting for prison.

Prosecutors alleged that the money represented payments to the family member to keep her quiet about sexual abuse that stretched over nearly three decades. They said the woman and Sabean agreed to claim the payments were for medical expenses – including organ transplants and other expensive procedures – so they could be deducted from Sabean’s taxes and to answer accountants in Sabean’s dermatology practice who were questioning the payments.


In his bankruptcy filing, Sabean said he now makes about $5,500 a month from Social Security, dividends and interest and rental property and has monthly expenses of $5,700. Last year, the filing said, he made nearly $1.4 million from his practice and the year before, he made $1.6 million.

State regulators ordered him to surrender his medical license and close his practice early this year after the convictions.

His primary assets are real estate – he owns a condo in Portland, a house in Falmouth valued at $650,000 and an office building in South Portland worth $250,000, the filing says. But Sabean owes the IRS nearly $830,000 and his lawyers $376,000. He owes $54,000 in state income taxes and liens have been put on some of his properties for nonpayment of property taxes, according to the bankruptcy filing, which also lists dozens of other liabilities, including some related to his medical practice.

The Sabeans filed under chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, meaning most of their assets would be sold to pay creditors rather than having the couple come up with a repayment plan. His tax liability probably can’t be waived because he was ordered to recalculate and pay his back taxes, including any penalties, as part of his sentence.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:


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