SPRINGFIELD — Suspended lawyer Gregory M. Olchowski of Colrain will serve six months in a federal prison for tax evasion.
Judge Michael Ponsor ordered the sentence Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Springfield. Olchowski, who formerly practiced law in Greenfield, pleaded guilty in September to four counts of tax evasion.
Ponsor said he would recommend to the Federal Bureau of Prisons that Olchowski’s incarceration be at the minimum security prison camp at Fort Devens, the federal prison nearest his home. The jail time is to be followed by one year of probation, the first six months to be served as home confinement with permission to leave during the day for work.
Ponsor also imposed what he said was the minimum fine, $2,000 on each count for a total of $8,000.
Ponsor said he was imposing the reduced sentence, well below the recommended sentencing range 18 to 24 months, in recognition of Olchowski’s Navy service, his immediate and full restitution of the money owed, and what he believed to be his extraordinary remorse and contrition.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow asked for a 14-month prison sentence, saying the below-guideline request was in recognition of an acceptance of responsibility above and beyond the normal.
Breslow said Olchowski has paid the full $148,805 owed the Internal Revenue Service in lost taxes and penalties.
Olchowski’s attorney, Daniel M. Kelly, filed a memo asking the judge to impose a 10-month period of home confinement and argued his client did not deserve a prison sentence.
Kelly pointed to his client’s prominence in the community and said conviction was the hardest punishment.
“This conviction itself causes this type of shame, personal, professional, social and familial censorship,” Kelly said.
Kelly argued his client acted out of a tragic financial situation created by a divorce and was not the true culprit in the case.
According to the document charging Olchowski, he entered into an agreement with the president of an unnamed Turners Falls company to accept payment under the table in 2003 and failed to report $197,293 as income from 2005 to 2008.
In arguing for the reduced sentence, Kelly referred to the company for the first time, saying when Olchowski “came to Hallmark in 2003” he was suffering financially from the divorce. Olchowski was quoted as being a Hallmark Institute of Photography executive vice president in Recorder articles from 2003 to 2005 and is shown to have resigned as corporate secretary of Hallmark in April 2009, in documents in the secretary of state’s office.
George J. Rosa III was president and owner of the Hallmark Institute of Photography during the period in question. Rosa sold the company in 2009 and last year ended his tenure as president.
In court, Kelly said Olchowski was less culpable, having engaged in a situation originated by another man who has not yet been charged.
“There is a comparison here between the real defendant in this case and obviously this defendant,” Kelly said.
Rosa has never been charged with any crime in connection with this case.
Speaking on his own behalf, Olchowski said he has always carried himself as a person of integrity and strong character and the charges are an aberration in his life produced by deep financial stress and not the desire for personal gain.
Olchowski said he has sold the law office he counted on for his retirement and borrowed money from his family in order to pay the full restitution.
“I will forever pay the deep personal penalty for the rest of my life,” said Olchowski who was born in 1955.
Ponsor said he had received 25 to 30 letters attesting to Olchowski’s good character from prominent Franklin County residents and attorneys. Ponsor also said he had met Olchowski a few times as a fellow lawyer about 30 years ago and knew him to be a decent person, but was having a hard time seeing why Olchowski shouldn’t serve prison time.
“I almost always feel that anyone who evades taxes should see the inside of a prison, particularly professionals,” Ponsor said.
In November the state Board of Bar Overseers suspended Olchowski’s license to practice law. At present he remains suspended, according to a spokesman for the bar overseers, who said Olchowski’s situation will likely be reviewed at some future date.
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