Ridley Township’s former tax collector and treasurer was sentenced to a year in federal prison Wednesday after admitting to filing false personal tax returns for five years, undervaluing her income by more than $400,000.
Rosezanna Czwalina, 70, told US District Judge Paul S. Diamond she was “extremely sorry” for the crime — to which she pleaded guilty last June — and regretted the embarrassment her conduct caused her family.
“I was raised to pay my debts, and I want to do that,” Czwalina said, asking to serve her sentence at home so she could continue to work toward paying $112,846 in restitution to the IRS.
But Diamond was not swayed. He stressed the seriousness of her crime, especially considering her status as an elected official.
“The need for public deterrence is especially great here, because the defendant was a tax collector, a public official,” Diamond said, “and she used that position to not pay her own taxes.”
From 2014 to 2018, prosecutors say, Czwalina failed to report on her income tax returns the fees she was authorized to collect from duplicate tax bills and other services she provided to the township.
» READ MORE: Former Ridley Township tax collector charged with filing false tax returns
Czwalina stepped down from her position in December 2020 amid a federal investigation into her taxes. She returned part time as a consultant until March 2021 so that she could help train her replacement, according to Township Manager Joe Ryan.
Over the five years she filed false tax returns, she gradually, but steadily, increased the amount of money she failed to report, according to Assistant US Attorney KT Newton. By 2018, her actual income was six times higher than what she reported to the IRS that year.
“For someone who was a tax collector at the time, this is a serious offense,” Newton said.
During that time, Czwalina made substantial purchases, prosecutors said, including buying a mobile home at the Jersey Shore, renovating her home in Morton, and funding a family vacation to Hawaii in 2018.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Czwalina’s daughter, Antoinette, told Diamond the investigation had taken a serious toll on her mother’s mental health. She became a veritable shut-in as news of her arrest spread, her daughter said, especially amid false rumors on social media that she had embezzled the money from the township.
“We’ve had to watch our mother suffer in her own pain. … In our eyes, she has already been judged, tried, and publicly convicted on social media,” Antoinette Czwalina said, calling her mother’s treatment in the court of public opinion tantamount to “a public hanging.”
Diamond ordered Czwalina to report to federal custody immediately, rejecting a request from her attorney, Eugene Bonner, to delay the start of her prison term by 30 days.
Afterwards, Bonner said the sentencing “went as expected,” and emphasized that his client was remorseful.
“She’s a strong lady,” Bonner said. “She wants to make restitution, and putting her in jail will obviously cause a hindrance to that.”