Boardman lawyer convicted of fraud released from jail
YOUNGSTOWN — Anthony J. Fusco, 34, whose law license is suspended, was ordered released from the Mahoning County jail Monday after serving about 39 days for committing insurance fraud while processing medical bills for clients at the law firm where he formerly worked.
Fusco, of Boardman, pleaded guilty before Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Aug. 16 and was sentenced to 18 months in prison Oct. 7. His plea agreement called for Fusco to be released from prison early if his behavior there was acceptable.
On Nov. 4, the judge ordered Fusco returned to the jail, and he was booked back in Oct. 7, according to Mahoning County jail records. In all, he has been locked up 39 days — about 17 in prison and about 22 in the jail.
During Fusco’s early-release hearing Monday, Jennifer Paris, assistant county prosecutor, asked D’Apolito to deny the early release, saying Fusco violated the terms of his plea agreement, which was for Fusco to be sentenced to 18 months in prison.
The violation occurred at Fusco’s sentencing hearing, when Fusco asked D’Apolito to “keep him out of jail,” Paris said.
One of Fusco’s attorneys, Dave Betras, said he has known Fusco since Fusco was a first-year law student, when he worked for Betras as a law clerk. Betras said he was “always shocked by his capacity to do work. I didn’t realize he had become addicted to Adderall. That’s really how he finds himself in the place he is now. He let his judgment slip, and he wound up in prison,” Betras said.
Adderall is a stimulant used to address attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. It is “considered dangerous” because of its “high risk of abuse and dependence,” according to the Web MD website.
The result is that Fusco has lost “his dignity as a husband, his dignity as a father and his dignity in the community,” Betras said. “He has suffered a far worse fate than any jail time could give him, and that is the guilt he is going to carry with him the rest of his life.”
Betras said Fusco told him just before the hearing that being away from his three small children this long “is literally killing me.” Betras said he thinks Fusco needs help for his substance abuse. He said Fusco has plans to get a commercial driver’s license and become a truck driver.
Betras said he does not think the plea agreement was violated.
When Fusco spoke, he said his remarks at the sentencing hearing happened because “I was emotional, and it just came out, as I said, on behalf of my kids.”
The judge said the victims in this case are the insurance companies to which Fusco sent altered medical bills. Clients of Fusco did not know of the fraud, officials have said. Officials have been unable to say how much Fusco personally benefitted from the fraud.
In agreeing to send Fusco home, the judge said he does not feel the need to hold Fusco’s remarks at the sentencing hearing about avoiding prison altogether against him, partly because Fusco did not work in criminal law. The judge ordered Fusco to be assessed for “counseling,” including substance-abuse counseling, and to follow the recommendations he is given. The judge has about 17 months of prison time he can still impose if Fusco does not avoid future problems.
On Oct. 13, Judith French, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, issued a news release stating that an audit of 1,400 claim settlements Fusco handled between March 2017 and September 2019 while working for the law firm Kisling, Nestico & Redick found that Fusco knowingly submitted altered and inflated medical bills in 399 client bodily injury claims submitted to 62 insurance companies. The bills were inflated by $859,464, the news release states.
Fusco resigned from KNR in October 2019, the release states. He joined the firm in December 2015, approximately one month after admittance to the practice of law.
John Reagan, managing partner of KNR, told The Vindicator that to his knowledge, no clients knew of the altered and inflated medical bills. He said the investigation into Fusco began after an insurance company advised KNR there was a “discrepancy on a bill that was submitted by Fusco. We investigated that file. We verified the discrepancy. We confronted Anthony Fusco with that information, at which point he walked out of KNR and we terminated him.”