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Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity

TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday on Friday declined to reduce the 76-month term he imposed Oct. 12 on Stephen Donaldson Sr., 72, for peddling an illegal offshore tax shelter.

On Monday, Donaldson's attorney suggested his client, at 5-foot-9 and 273 pounds, was too fat for his prison sentence, given the likely effect of weight on his health and longevity.

"As an obese male, his life expectancy can expect to be substantially reduced," attorney Curtis Fallgatter wrote in a motion, asking the judge to "correct" the sentence. Otherwise, the attorney argued, Donaldson could spend 61 percent of his remaining years in prison.

Merryday issued the leanest of responses, a single line on the docket denying the motion, without explanation.

Neither Donaldson nor conspirator Duane Crithfield, 70, has been taken into federal custody. Both have asked to remain free on bail while pursuing an appeal. Their requests are pending.

Crithfield was sentenced to four years and six months. He and Donaldson were accused of marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.

Purchasers would pay a premium and claim the cost as a business expense but would later reclaim about 85 percent of the premium if misfortune did not come their way.

Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected]

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