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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Former Lackawanna County Family Court Guardian Ad Litem Pleads Guilty To Federal Income Tax Fraud

     The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on Monday, Danielle Ross Pietralczyk, age 37, of Jermyn, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo to tax evasion and filing a false federal income tax return.

     According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, tax returns verified by Ross under penalty of perjury failed to report any amounts of income she received from private paying clients while acting as the sole guardian ad litem for the Lackawanna County Family Court. The only income Ross reported for 2009 and 2010 was her County compensation reported on 1099 Forms which she received as an independent contractor hired by Lackawanna County.

     As the sole guardian ad litem for the Lackawanna County Family Court, Ross was provided with an annual compensation of $38,000. However, pursuant to a contract between Ross and Lackawanna County, Ross was permitted to bill private paying parties above her County compensation at a rate of $50 per hour. Ross managed and exercised complete control over her private billings and income.  That income was known only to Ross and not Lackawanna County, nor was Lackawanna County required to approve Ross’s private billings.

     Ross was indicted in February 2013. 

     The case was investigated by joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Olshefski.

     A sentence following a finding of guilty is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

     In this particular case, the maximum penalty under the federal statute is five years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

Updated April 9, 2015