SUNBURY — Kulpmont Borough officials are challenging the tax-exempt status of a building where a Mount Carmel woman operated an illegal psychotherapy business.
Twilight Beginnings, formerly operated by Joan Pitingolo Cicchiello prior to 2018, is among 59 total properties that will be the subject of property assessment appeal hearings in Northumberland County in October. This particular appeal is unique in the sense that borough officials are leading the appeal.
"The assessment office cannot take action to revoke tax-exempt status without a transfer of ownership," said Northumberland County Chief Assessor Tiffany Kaseman. "A taxing body must file the appeal, so in this case, it must be the municipality or the school district."
Twilight Beginnings, a residential property at 601 W. Fifth St., across from the Mount Carmel elementary and high schools, was given tax-exempt status in 2012 because of housing visiting ministers, said Kaseman.
The total real estate taxes for the county, borough and Mount Carmel School District equals $520, said Kaseman.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said Cicchiello was operating an illegal psychotherapy business out of an abandoned church, vacationing around the world while falsely billing the federal government for mental health care services performed by fake therapists.
Federal Judge John E. Jones sentenced Cicchiello, 69, in May 2018 to serve six years in a federal prison followed by three years supervised probation. Jones also ordered Cicchiello to repay Medicare $152,122 and pay a $150,000 fine. An unspecified amount of money belonging to Cicchiello was previously seized.
Cicchiello pleaded guilty to health care fraud in October 2017. As part of a plea deal, the court dropped thirty-seven counts of making false statements related to health care matters and one count of obstruction of a federal audit. A grand jury returned an indictment against her in September 2015.
Cicchiello remains a federal inmate at a Residential Reentry Management Field Office in RRM Philadelphia. Her release date is listed as June 17, 2023, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons database.
A representative of Kulpmont Borough Council was unable to be reached for comment.
Seeking tax exemption
Seven entities are seeking tax exemption for properties in the county: St. Louis de Montfort Academy at 868 Herndon Road, Herndon; Restorations Ministries at 525 W. Chestnut St., Shamokin; Dornsife Bible Holiness Church at 123 Wayside Lane, Dornsife; Stoneridge Farm Foundation in Point Township; Keystone Service Systems in Shamokin Township; the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way at 228 Arch St., Sunbury; and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church at 39 Paradise St., Turbottville.
The appeals board is comprised of Northumberland County Commissioners Sam Schiccatano, Joe Klebon and Kymberley Best.