TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, December 5, 2011

93-Year Old Great-Grandmother Who Sold 1,300 Suicide Kits Pleads Guilty to Tax Charges

Reuters, Suicide Kit Maker, 93, Pleads Guilty to Tax Offense:

A great-grandmother who sold do-it-yourself asphyxiation kits from her home in California pleaded guilty on Friday to a misdemeanor tax-related offense stemming from an investigation of her mail-order business.

Sharlotte Hydorn, 93, a retired public school science teacher, admitted failing to file a federal income tax return from 2007 through 2010, years in which investigators said at least seven customers used her kits to commit suicide.

Prosecutors said Hydorn sold about 1,300 of the devices during that time but had agreed to stop making or selling the kits as part of her plea deal.

The San Diego County district attorney, who was a party to the settlement, agreed not to prosecute Hydorn for her role in any of the six known deaths that occurred in that county. ...

Hydorn, whose San Diego-area house was raided in May by federal agents seizing documents, computers and sewing machines, has said her so-called "exit kits" were intended to help terminally ill people end their lives with dignity in their own homes.

The product, sold for $60 each including instructions and shipping, consisted of a plastic hood that closed around the neck and tubing that connected the hood to a tank of helium or other inert gas that users had to supply themselves.

She acknowledged selling the kits for the past 20 years under the brand name GLADD, which stands for Glorious Life and Dignified Death, without performing background checks or screening the individuals who ordered the apparatus. But she has insisted she made little money from the enterprise.

Still, Leslie DeMarco, a special agent in charge of the IRS field office in Los Angeles, said Hydorn "was operating a for-profit business without regard to the identity of her clients, their current medical condition or the federal tax laws. It was clear that Hydorn, in fact, has no way of knowing if a purchaser was simply depressed or a minor acting without the consent or guidance of their parent."

Hydorn's lawyer, Charles Goldberg, said she never deposited payments from her patrons, and that FBI agents found hundreds of uncashed checks and envelopes of cash in her home.
The income she failed to report to the IRS was mostly from her retirement pension, Social Security and rent from two small apartment units, he said.

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If the tax conviction is enough to make her kill herself, she won't have to look far for a kit to do it.

Posted by: Woody | Dec 5, 2011 1:47:43 PM