Secretary to plead guilty to helping Pittsburgh-area business man evade more than $4M in taxes

MarketsAssociated Press

The personal secretary for one of Pennsylvania's richest men will plead guilty to helping him evade more than $4 million in federal income taxes by using business funds to pay for his 18-bedroom mansion and other personal luxuries, her attorney said Friday.

Ann E. Harris, of Monongahela, helped funnel the money into the 33,000-square-foot mansion in Sewickley, a $260,000 Ferrari and a $237,000 down payment on a swimming pool, according to a conspiracy charge filed Thursday by federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh.

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The businessman is not named in the document. The person is described as the controlling officer of Automated Health Systems Inc., a suburban Pittsburgh company that administers public health programs in Florida, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, and several other businesses, including Nocito Enterprises.

Defense attorney Phil DiLucente told the AP he represents the person, Joseph Nocito Sr., Automated Health's 73-year-old CEO.

DiLucente disputed the government's allegations.

"Neither I nor my client can control what the government claims, but we can certainly control what our response is, and that's that this is just a tax dispute," DiLucente said.

Harris' attorney, James DePasquale, wouldn't speak directly about Nocito, but said she's still employed by the companies listed in the criminal charge.

Harris' guilty plea has yet to be scheduled, DePasquale said Friday.

Federal guidelines call for 37 to 46 months in prison, though DePasquale will argue for less. The sentencing guidelines are based on a tax loss of $4.045 million, he said.

Those taxes are allegedly owed by the businessman from 2006-2012, not Harris, DePasquale said.

"Every penny that's she's earned, she paid her taxes on," he said.

Although she's described in the charge as the "personal assistant and secretary to Co-Conspirator 1" — Nocito — Harris is more of an "office manager" and does work for more than one company, DePasquale said.

"There are so many companies, and they are so intertwined. She works for Jonolley Properties," DePasquale said. Jonolley lists Nocito as president in its corporate records.

He also controls Northlands Properties which, according to Allegheny County property records, owns the mansion.

County records show the mansion has 34 rooms and 12 bedrooms, though the home has been described in real estate publications as having 18 bedrooms. The home also has 13 full bathrooms, 8 half bathrooms, and 22 fireplaces, county records show.

The home's "full market value" is $4.25 million, though its value is also listed as $9.5 million alongside other "comparable" homes in county property records.

According to the conspiracy charge, the businessman's "staff quarters" were furnished by running a bogus bill for $14,000 worth of "consulting" services through a Jonolley account, while the Ferrari was paid with "travel" expenses also charged against Jonolley, among other expenditures.

A $1,349.44 Nocito Enterprises check for "travel" expenses was allegedly used to reimburse a butler for groceries, and gas for a Mercedes, Maserati, Bentley and Jaguar.

"We do not dispute, factually, what happened," DePasquale said.