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TAX EVASION Colucci begins prison sentence



Published: Tue, February 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ex-lawyer, convicted of tax evasion, could be released in April 2006.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mark Colucci -- who made million-dollar settlements as a lawyer -- is looking at a pay range of 12 cents to $1.15 per hour as a federal prison inmate.

Colucci, 47, of Austintown, checked in to the Federal Correctional Institution in Elkton on Monday to begin serving an 18-month sentence for tax evasion. The ex-lawyer was sentenced Dec. 16, 2004, by U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. O'Malley, who ordered that he participate in a 500-hour drug treatment program and also receive mental health treatment while incarcerated.

With good time, Colucci could be released in April 2006.

The once successful lawyer, who won multimillion-dollar lawsuits during his career, admitted that he collected $29,727 in income taxes and Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes from his employees but failed to pay the IRS. The years involved were 1996 through 2001. He also failed to pay $291,149 in personal income tax for calendar years 1997 through 2001.

The facility

Elkton, a low-security facility on 320 acres in a rural portion of Columbiana County, opened in August 1997. It houses 1,900 inmates at the main facility and 570 inmates at the adjacent satellite, said Dan Dunne, Bureau of Prisons spokesman in Washington, D.C.

The inmates are fed military-recipe meals.

Also at Elkton is retired contractor Bernard J. Bucheit, 72, formerly of Boardman. In October 2003, he began serving a two-year sentence for conspiracy to violate the federal bribery statute, giving an unlawful gratuity to a public official (then-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., who is serving an eight-year term) and perjury before a federal grand jury.

With good time, Bucheit's projected release is June 22. His appeal is pending.

After an orientation period, inmates at Elkton work. The pay range is 12 to 40 cents per hour for general institution jobs, such as sanitation (housing unit orderly), grounds maintenance, food service and laundry worker.

The pay range for other work is 23 cents to $1.15 per hour.

Elkton has a UNICOR (federal prison industries) data services factory. It provides document conversion services on roughly 50,000 pages per week of documents for electronic publishing for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Watching inmates

Dunne said the factory is large and open, allowing easy visibility for inmate supervision. The atmosphere is clean and professional in appearance.

Inmates are thoroughly trained and have a clear understanding of production expectations. The environment closely resembles that of a business one would find in any community, Dunne said.

Inmates learn how to take pride in their work and accept responsibility for their actions.

Elkton also has a UNICOR recycling factory with a work force of seven full-time staff and about 220 inmates. Elkton recycles some scrap equipment that is furnished by various state and federal agencies as well as by the private sector. The scrap includes such items as CPUs, monitors, printers and so forth. UNICOR guarantees that none of the material received at Elkton will end up in a landfill.

Elkton receives on average roughly 500,000 pounds of material each month. With three separate factories on the institution grounds, Elkton Recycling is well positioned to accommodate more business in the future, Dunne said.

The Psychology Services Department at the prison provides mental health and substance abuse services to the inmate population.

The complaint

In June 2004, the Mahoning County Bar Association filed a complaint against Colucci, charging that he did secret legal work for Traficant when the then-congressman was defending himself against federal bribery charges in 2001.

The bar also accused Colucci of charging excessive fees and not doing legal work for his clients. Many of Colucci's former clients have since banded together to recoup legal fees or have their cases reopened.

Judge O'Malley did not impose a fine on Colucci. She said that, after he pays the IRS, his money should go to pay his former clients.

Once released, he must participate in outpatient drug treatment and cooperate with the IRS. He owes $321,149 plus interest and penalties.

In July 2004, the Ohio Supreme Court, based on the bar association complaint, suspended Colucci's license. He later resigned his license.

At sentencing, Colucci's Canfield lawyer, David J. Betras, had implored Judge O'Malley to sentence at the low end of the 12 to 18 months' range. Betras said Colucci is bipolar, an alcoholic and addicted to Xanax and what he did to his clients was like a "train wreck."




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