The legal saga of former Lackawanna guardian ad litem Danielle Ross concluded earlier this week when the woman officially pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to tax evasion and filing a false federal income tax return.
Ross, who worked as an independent contractor for the Lackawanna County Family Court, representing families embroiled in severe custody disputes, owned up to her crimes in a guilty plea before Judge A. Richard Caputo at the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Ross had already pleaded guilty to attempted tax evasion back in November.
The latest plea comes nearly 10 months after the federal government indicted Ross on charges that she and her husband, Walter Pietralczyk, Jr., lied about their joint income.
As guardian ad litem for the family court system, Ross received an annual compensation of $38,000, but a deal with the judiciary enabled her to privately bill families with whom she worked for services.
The private paying rate was about $50 per hour, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, which announced this week’s plea.
“Ross managed and exercised complete control over her private billings and income,” the prosecutor’s office stated in a Dec. 17 news release.
The problem is that Ross never reported that extra income on her federal tax returns for the years of 2009 and 2010, the government alleged.
The only income she reported for those tax years was the money she received from the county court system.
Prosecutors stated that Lackawanna County had no knowledge about the tax cheating because it was not required to approve of Ross’s private billings.
Ross, 37, who resides in Jermyn, Pa., faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in federal prison, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and an unspecified fine.
The indictment against her charged Ross with failing to report about $200,000 in income she got directly from the parents with whom she worked.
Earlier this month, Pietralczyk, the husband, pleaded guilty to a tax fraud misdemeanor charge before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt.
He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine, the Pennsylvania Record previously reported.