Latrobe law firm's secretary pleads guilty to income tax evasion
A longtime secretary-bookkeeper at a Latrobe law firm faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to failing to pay income taxes on at least $150,000 she embezzled.
Debra J. Feather, 63, of Latrobe — who worked at McDonald Snyder & Lightcap for 41 years before she was fired in July 2010 when the thefts were uncovered — will be sentenced on Dec. 5 by U.S. Judge Arthur J. Schwab in Pittsburgh.
Feather was indicted in the spring by a federal grand jury on an income tax evasion charge.
The embezzlement was not disclosed publicly until Aug. 13, when she pleaded guilty, according to court documents. Authorities pursued the case under Internal Revenue Tax codes because of potential criminal statute of limitation concerns, documents show.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo M. Dillon told Schwab that Feather admitted to stealing about $150,000 from the firm from 2007 through 2010.
He said Feather paid personal bills, including more than $2,000 for her cellphone bill, from law firm accounts. Some of the money was used to buy season ticket plans for the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Pittsburgh Panther football games.
Feather, who remains free on $30,000 bond, did not return telephone calls left at her home.
She told investigators she did not report the income on joint tax returns filed with her husband, Jim, who was not indicted. Jim Feather denied any knowledge of the thefts when questioned by IRS agent David McKinzie, according to court records.
Accountants who reviewed the law firm's books discovered shortfalls totaling about $300,000 in accounts Feather handled, dating back to 1998, Dillon told Schwab.
“In July of 2010 ... (Feather) could not come into work in order to write payroll checks because she was in traction at home due to a broken leg,” Dillon told Schwab, according to a court transcript of the guilty plea proceeding.
Attorney Donald Snyder came in to complete the payroll, noticed discrepancies in Feather's bookkeeping, and the investigation began.
Snyder initially contacted Latrobe police Patrolman Joe Angus, but the case was referred to the IRS.
Snyder declined to comment, saying the case is in litigation.
Snyder had “complete trust” in Feather until he discovered the discrepancies, Dillon told the judge.
Feather wrote checks to third-party recipients, including several of her relatives, who denied cashing any checks from the law firm, court records show. Dillon said Feather admitted cashing the checks.
Paul Peirce is a reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-850-2860.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Unity planners OK proposal for Route 30 retail development
- Hempfield man to plead guilty to posing as policeman
- Harsh February leaves Westmoreland communities short on road salt
- Charleroi woman charged in home invasion pleads, is released
- West Newton seeks more information on plan to add fire companies to be called in emergencies
- Restitution payments top record in Westmoreland County
- Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum to kick off Speaker Series with stories of Jeannette
- Visitation parish to hold Longaberger Basket Bingo/Bash
- North Huntingdon man accused of road rage altercation in Westmoreland
- Event gets new formal name: Shop ’n Save Westmoreland County Airshow, presented by Xcoal Energy & Resources in Latrobe
- Zoning update raises fears in Ligonier Township