A former Ridley tax collector was sentenced to a year in federal prison on Wednesday

PHILADELPHIA — Former tax collector and longtime Ridley Township Treasurer Rosezanna Czwalina was sentenced Wednesday to a year in federal prison for filing false tax returns and underreporting more than $400,000 in income.

“The US tax system provides essential government services to our people,” US Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement. “Every time someone cheats the tax system, the burden of providing vital services increases for taxpayers who pay their fair share. As an elected official responsible for collecting taxes and managing public funds, this defendant knew her obligations and deliberately chose to ignore them.

Czwalina, 70, of Morton, who retired in 2020 after 30 years with the township, was also ordered to serve a year of supervised release and pay $112,846 in restitution under the sentence imposed by the judge of U.S. District Paul Diamond of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Czwalina was charged by federal indictments in April 2021 for failing to report income she earned on tax certifications fees and duplicate tax bills. She pleaded guilty last year to five counts of filing a false tax return for the years 2014 to 2018.

According to a plea memorandum filed by Assistant US Attorney KT Newton, local tax collectors receive three different types of tax levies: tax certifications that serve as proof that a tax bill has been paid; duplicate billing fees paid to obtain a replacement or second copy of a tax bill; and provisional taxes assessed in the event of new construction or improvement of an existing property or parcel of land.

Czwalina maintained three bank accounts at Wells Fargo Bank, the memorandum says. These accounts show that tax revenue checks made payable to Czwalina, Ridley Township, or a combination of both, were deposited into each of the three accounts.

Income Czwalina received from certifications and duplicate billing fees was also deposited into these accounts, according to the memorandum, but the remittances paid to Ridley Township only came from one of the accounts.

Czwalina was legally permitted to keep the certification and duplicate billing fees for her personal use, although Ridley changed this practice after her arrest, and all checks for tax duplication fees and tax certifications must now be made payable to by order of the canton.

While Czwalina could keep these funds, she was also required to report them as income on federal tax returns. Reportedly, she reported income of $56,522 for 2014; $57,924 for 2015; $88,695 for 2016; $180,719 for 2017; and $91,394 for 2018.

By comparing the amounts deposited against what was remitted to Ridley Township and reported on his tax bills, prosecutors concluded that Czwalina failed to declare an additional $45,286 in 2014; $56,667 in 2015; $72,537 in 2016; $78,188 in 2017; and $150,342 in 2018, for a grand total of $403,022 in unreported income.

Czwalina met with FBI Special Agent AJ Pelczar and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Rick Martin in December 2020, according to the memorandum. During this interview, she allegedly admitted that she never reported duplicate fees or tax certificate payments as income on her tax returns and that she never told her accountant about this income. .

“As the township’s tax collector, Czwalina was well aware of the importance of tax revenue to the proper functioning of government,” said Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia division. “And yet, for years, she knowingly bypassed the federal system and its taxpayers by failing to report her true income. Elected officials must be held to the highest ethical standards and when their actions turn criminal, the FBI and our partners will not hesitate to investigate and hold them duly accountable.

Esther L. Steinbach