Former Albany anesthesiologist takes stand in tax evasion trial

ALBANY, Ga. -- A former Albany anesthesiologist already plagued by legal issues in state court took the stand in federal court Wednesday to defend himself against an indictment contending he evaded paying taxes and defrauded the federal government.

Dr. Robert Sperrazza has pleaded not guilty to a five-count indictment brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office that charges he intentionally misreported information on tax returns going back to 2005 and that he intentionally structured cash withdrawals from a corporate account to avoid reporting requirements by the bank to the Internal Revenue Service.

On Wednesday, Sperrazza took the stand in his own defense, testifying that while he did routinely cash large sums of cash -- in varying amounts between $3,000 and $9,900 -- it was only on the advice of a bank manager.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. law requires banks to note anyone who withdraws more than $10,000 in cash. Any attempt to intentionally skirt that reporting requirement by regularly withdrawing amounts under $10,000 runs afoul of federal statutes.

Sperrazza also testified that he remembers being given slips by bank officials documenting the cash withdrawals, but over the course of several residential moves -- and possibly during the many visits of federal agents through his property, he said -- the slips have been misplaced.

Sperrazza, once Palmyra Medical Centers' only anesthesiologist and the founder of Southwest Georgia Anesthesiologists LLC., now lives in Panama City Beach, Fla., where he enjoys limited medical privileges after being placed on suspension and probation by the Florida medical board in 2011.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts related to improper possession of prescription drugs in Dougherty Superior Court in 2012 in which he was sentenced to 12 months probation.

If convicted of the federal charges, Sperrazza is facing federal prison time.