Former Lackawanna County guardian ad litem pleads guilty to attempted tax evasion

By Jon Campisi | Nov 8, 2013

A former guardian ad litem in northeastern Pennsylvania has agreed to plead guilty in a federal tax case against her and her husband.

A former guardian ad litem in northeastern Pennsylvania has agreed to plead guilty in a federal tax case against her and her husband.

Danielle Ross, also known as Danielle Pietralczyk, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted tax evasion, the move coming nine months after the federal government charged Ross with failing to disclose income she derived from clients.

Ross, who previously worked as the guardian ad litem for Lackawanna County, a job that involves working with parents engaged in severe child custody disputes, was charged in February with two counts of tax evasion and two counts of filing false federal income tax returns.

The 13-page grand jury indictment alleged that Ross and her husband only reported income stemming from the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas in connection with Ross’s work as guardian ad litem.

The indictment claimed that Ross failed to report about $200,000 in income she got directly from the parents with whom she worked.

As guardian ad litem, which is a court-appointed attorney position, Ross had a special deal with the court system that enabled her to receive extra income directly from parents.

Records show that as an independent contractor, Ross made an annual salary of about $38,000 through her work with the court system, although she was allowed to charge $50 per hour to families involved with the custody dispute cases.

She was suspended from her position as guardian ad litem following the federal indictment.

In her plea agreement, which was filed Nov. 5 at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Ross pleaded guilty to one count of attempted tax evasion for the year 2009.

Walter Pietralczyk, Jr., the husband, also pleaded guilty to a count of filing a false tax return with the Internal Revenue Service in that same year.

In connection with her guilty plea, Ross faces a maximum of five years behind bars and a $100,000 fine, according to the plea agreement.

She will have to undergo a three-year term of supervised monitoring after her release from any potential federal prison term.

In return for her guilty plea, the court filing states, the government has agreed to move for dismissal of the remaining counts in the indictment.

Pietralczyk, who was charged this week in connection with the tax fraud because he had jointly filed with his wife, faces a maximum prison sentence of one year in addition to a $10,000 fine.

The guilty plea also requires the couple to make full restitution to the federal government.

According to the plea agreement, the IRS believes the tax loss is somewhere between $30,000 and $80,000, although the court will determine the amount of tax owed to the government at the time of sentencing.

The agreement was signed by Ross, her attorney, David Solfanelli, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Olshefski.

Court records show that Ross was originally scheduled to go on trial in the case later this month.

The case is being overseen by U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo, who still has to approve the plea deal.

The court docket in Pietralczyk’s case shows the defendant is scheduled to plead guilty on Nov. 13 before Magistrate Judge Thomas Blewitt.

A plea date has apparently not been set for Ross.

The docket further shows that Pietralczyk, unlike his wife, was charged via criminal information, which, as opposed to an indictment, generally signals that a defendant plans to plead guilty.

The criminal information, which was filed on Nov. 5, says that Pietralczyk filed an income tax return on behalf of himself and his wife for the calendar year 2009 that stated the couple’s joint taxable income for that year was $50,985, while in reality the joint income was “substantially in excess of that amount.”

The record shows that Pietralczyk is being represented by Scranton attorney Carl J. Poveromo.

The couple resides in Jermyn, Pa.

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