An East Wenatchee chiropractor who has battled the IRS for the past five years, claiming he is a “sovereign citizen” and immune from federal taxes, has been convicted in Spokane of failing to file income tax returns.
Biffer A. Wellendorf, a 50-year-old self-described “constitutionalist,” was convicted by Senior Judge Justin Quackenbush in a non-jury trial that ended Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
The judge allowed Wellendorf to remain free without bond until sentencing Oct. 7.
During the three-day bench trial, Wellendorf acted as his own attorney, posing questions to himself when he took the witness stand in his own defense. He called no other witnesses.
His attempt to convince the court that he wasn’t required to file federal income tax returns failed because he did not reside in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Island or any other U.S. territory.
Wellendorf also argued that he should be acquitted because he had not been treated fairly and honestly by the Internal Revenue Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Jacobs called 42 witnesses, including IRS agents and customers who said they paid Wellendorf for chiropractic services.
He was indicted in March by a grand jury, accused of not filing federal income tax returns for the years 1998 through 2001.
The prosecution presented evidence that Wellendorf, operating Apple Chiropractic in East Wenatchee, failed to report $185,023 in gross income over the four-year period.
Wellendorf had income of $61,060 in 1998 and $58,873 in 1999, but failed to file returns for those years.
In 2000 and 2001, he had incomes of $36,917 and $28,173, respectively, and also failed to file returns.
During the trial, evidence was presented showing Wellendorf hasn’t filed a federal income tax return since 1993.
Under questioning by the prosecutor, Wellendorf denied being a “tax protester,” but admitted attending meetings in Ellensburg of an anti-federal income tax group known as the Jural Society.
Because he is a “sovereign citizen,” Wellendorf argued that he was under no obligation to file federal income tax returns or pay federal income taxes.
His first battle with the IRS began in August 2000 when IRS agents served Wellendorf with subpoenas demanding access to his business records. When he refused to comply on several occasions, after promising to turn over his records, Wellendorf was found in civil contempt of court and sent to jail on March 12, 2002.
He spent 129 days in the Spokane County Jail after being found in contempt by U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen.
At sentencing, Wellendorf could face up to four years in prison, $400,000 in fines and be ordered to pay his delinquent taxes, plus interest.
In allowing Wellendorf to remain free, the judge ordered him to file income tax returns for the years 1998-2001 before his sentencing in October.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.