Former Cozen O'Connor attorney sentenced to 70 months in federal prison

By Jon Campisi | Nov 25, 2012

A Philadelphia attorney who once did work for actor/rapper Will Smith will spend close

A Philadelphia attorney who once did work for actor/rapper Will Smith will spend close

to the next six years in federal prison for a tax evasion conviction.

Charles M. Naselsky, 52, of Philadelphia, who had worked for various high-power law firms throughout the region, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul S. Diamond to 70 months behind bars for failing to report $365,000 in income on his federal tax returns for the fiscal years 2005 and 2006, according to local news reports.

Naselsky was convicted during a jury trial at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia back in September on two counts of tax evasion, two counts of filing false tax returns, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of obstruction of justice, the Pennsylvania Record previously reported.

Naselsky’s criminal docket sheet was not immediately updated to reflect the sentencing prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The government accused Naselsky of instructing some of his legal clients – he was working for Philadelphia firm Cozen O’Connor at the time – to pay him directly for professional services, despite being aware that the money belonged to the law firm.

Prosecutors said Naselsky went on to hide that income from the Internal Revenue Service in an effort to avoid paying taxes on it.

The lawyer then filed false income tax returns to reflect the scheme.

The federal jury agreed with the government’s accusations.

Naselsky had faced between 46 to 71 months in federal prison; Judge Diamond went with the higher end of the guidelines when handing down the sentence.

The judge also ordered Naselsky, who primarily specialized in real estate transactional law, to pay $290,000 in restitution to Cozen O’Connor, and $135,000 in restitution to the IRS, news reports state.

Naselsky was also ordered to undergo four years of supervised release after he finishes his prison term.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reported that Naselsky once represented popular singer and movie star Will Smith, a Philadelphia native, in various local development projects.

Maria M. Carrillo, of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tax Division, told the Legal Intelligencer newspaper that Diamond increased the original sentencing guidelines range after hearing prosecutorial evidence of additional alleged illegal conduct that took place about the same time as the original conduct that resulted in Naselsky’s arrest.

“We asked for 70 months so we’re very pleased with the sentence in that we think it represents … the seriousness of the offenses,” Carrillo told the Legal Intelligencer. “This was a licensed attorney who was sworn to uphold the law and instead of upholding it he violated it over and over and over again.”

Naselsky was reported to have been taken into custody immediately following sentencing.

After working at Cozen O’Connor Naselsky joined the Philadelphia law firm of Blank Rome. He left that firm around the time the IRS started to investigate him.

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