Crime & Courts

Lawrence doctor, Atkins diet co-author sentenced for tax evasion

A Kansas obesity specialist who co-authored the “Atkins Diabetes Revolution” has been sentenced to three years and five months in federal prison for tax evasion, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Friday.

Mary C. Vernon, 62, of Lawrence, who was convicted in March of five counts of tax evasion, was also ordered to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution.

The “Atkins Diabetes Revolution” was published in 2004, a year after the death of weight loss expert Robert Atkins.

Vernon earned almost $800,000 by working for Atkins’ nutrition and weight-loss companies from 2003 to 2008. Prosecutors said that from 1999 to 2007, the IRS attempted to collect taxes, interest and penalties that Vernon owed and failed to pay from 1991 through 2005. The IRS collected about $2 million in taxes, interest and penalties through levies and seizures.

In 2003, Vernon hired an attorney to create a corporation called Rockledge Medical Services. Prosecutors presented evidence at her trial that Rockledge was a sham corporation that Vernon used to avoid paying taxes. Prosecutors said she evaded incomes taxes from 2004 to 2008.

Vernon, who practiced in Lawrence and Shawnee, served as medical director for a number of nursing homes. Most recently, she served in a contract position as the director of an emergency room in Liberal, prosecutors said.