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Mendelsohn loses appeal to reduce sentence on tax fraud

Alan Mendelsohn, the Hollywood physician and ex-GOP fundraiser imprisoned for four years on a tax-related fraud conviction, has lost his federal appeal to reduce his sentence.

Last year, U.S. District Judge William Zloch slapped Mendelsohn with the sentence, saying he corrupted the democratic process in the Florida Legislature by secretly funneling $82,000 through a legislative aide to a former state senator in exchange for political favors.

Zloch rejected the Justice Department’s recommended prison sentence for Mendelsohn, between two and 2½ years, and his defense attorney’s bid for probation with no jail time. The judge said both failed to address the seriousness of his criminal behavior.

Mendelsohn’s lawyer, Alvin Entin, said the judge’s sentence was “unreasonable.” On Tuesday, a panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the physician’s appeal.

“Specifically, Mendelsohn claims that the [judge] erroneously interpreted payments that he made to an employee of a Florida legislator as bribes,” the panel wrote.

“However, the district court did not clearly err because Mendelsohn pled guilty to making payments to a Florida legislator through one of the legislator’s employees in order to enable the legislator to avoid paying taxes, and Mendelsohn admitted that the purpose of the payments was to obtain political influence.”

On Monday, the legislator, former state Sen. Mandy Dawson, D-Fort Lauderdale, pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to evading taxes on Mendelsohn’s payoffs in 2005 and failing to report her legislative income in 2008.

-- Jay Weaver, Miami Herald

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