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Nelson acupuncturist gets six months in jail for tax evasion

Warren Fischer, a doctor of Chinese medicine in Nelson, was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of $40,000 for willfully evading income tax payments for three years. - Nelson Star file photo
Warren Fischer, a doctor of Chinese medicine in Nelson, was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of $40,000 for willfully evading income tax payments for three years.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

A traditional Chinese medicine doctor who didn’t pay his income taxes for three years has been ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and spend six months in jail for the crime.

Warren Fischer, 50, is the founder of Nelson’s Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, where he works as a classroom instructor and an acupuncturist in the outpatient clinic.

Between the years of 2007 and 2009, he filed income tax statements reporting either no earnings or a net loss. But according to a Revenue Canada investigation, he earned between $80,000 and $135,000 during each of those years and owed about $62,000 in taxes for the three-year period.

The sentence handed down by Judge Lisa Mrozinski at the Nelson courthouse Tuesday morning gave him three and a half years to pay back 75 per cent of the amount he owes in back taxes.

Fischer’s lawyer Shawn Buckley had recommended that Fischer pay the mandatory minimum fine of 50 per cent of the amount owing and that he be given a conditional sentence that could be served in the community. But Crown prosecutor Nils Preshaw asked for a 100 per cent fine and one year in jail.

Mrozinski told the court that she did not believe Fischer would comply with a conditional sentence order because of his history of defying court process and regulations of other governing bodies. For example, during pre-trial hearings he and his supporters were disruptive in court and during the trial he refused to enter the courthouse, opting to stand outside the doors in peaceful protest. He also continues to practice Chinese medicine, seeing between 50 and 60 patients per week, despite not being in good standing with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners.

Fischer became more respectful of the court process after his conviction and spending 38 days in jail. For the first time, he showed up to court accompanied by a lawyer and gave a statement, during which he explained his motivation for avoiding taxes and apologized for his previous behaviour.

Judge Mrozinski said it was “too little, too late.”

Fischer was escorted out of the courthouse in handcuffs and will begin serving his jail time immediately. The days he’s already spent behind bars will be deducted from the sentence.

About 40 people — Fischer’s students, patients, friends and family — filled the public gallery to hear the sentence. Many left in tears. Fischer showed little emotion during the one-hour proceedings and didn’t show any outward response to the news that he was heading back to jail.

During sentencing he said that as a slim, intellectual gay man he was bullied by fellow inmates in jail. He was refused access to the Chinese herbs he takes for medical reasons. He had difficulty sleeping and became ill.

He also said previously that he has no intention to pay income tax going forward. Instead he will organize his affairs such that he’ll be giving the majority of his earnings to charity and claim only a small income, below the taxable amount.

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