A federal indictment charging Cape May County attorney Seth A. Fuscellaro with a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud was dismissed Sept. 17.
But the larger case, which involved 11 defendants, including Fuscellaro, charged in a $15 million mortgage fraud scheme involving condominiums in Wildwood as well as properties elsewhere in New Jersey and Naples, Fla., continues with a trial date set for Oct. 21.
Fuscellaro, however, will not be part of that trial after the federal government conceded that the single charge should be dropped.
“After an extensive additional post-indictment investigation into the allegations against Fuscellaro, the United States has concluded that further prosecution of Fuscellaro is not in the interests of the United States at this time,” reads the motion submitted by Assistant United States Attorney Matthew T. Smith.
Federal District Judge Jerome B. Simandle signed off on the motion and the charges were dropped, ending a battle that began on July 19, 2012, the day Fuscellaro was publicly handcuffed and hauled away by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“This has been a cloud lifted off his head,” said Philadelphia-based attorney Thomas Burke of the firm of Borum, Burke, DiDonato and Voci.
Burke took on Fuscellaro’s case in August 2012.
“This is something we’ve been working on since he was indicted last year,” Burke said of the dismissal. “My client steadfastly maintained his innocence.”
Burke said he went about collecting hundreds of pages of documents related to the case and submitted them to the U.S. attorney hoping to show that Fuscellaro was not involved with any of the illegal transactions.
The indictment alleged a conspiracy that used phony documents and “straw buyers” to purchase condominiums at inflated prices in a saturated market. The conspirators allegedly used fraudulent loan applications and unqualified buyers to make money on the deals, paid at the expense of lending companies that backed the purchases.
All 11 defendants were charged with wire fraud or with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Timothy D. Ricks, 45, of East Orange, Essex County, owner of EZ Go Financial Corp. in Edison, Sussex County, and Orlando Allen, 47, of Fayetteville, Ga., who provided real estate investors for the scam, have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The indictment alleged that Fuscellaro hid the true sales price of certain properties “through inflated sales contracts and sale and finder fee agreements.”
His very public arrest, Burke said, “was a little disheartening that it was done that way.’
Burke said documents showed that while Fuscellaro may have been briefly present at certain times, such as settlement meetings, he was never part of the transactions. Instead, he was there to drop off documents on behalf of his law firm at the time, DeWeese, Stagliano & Fuscellaro, Burke said. The firm has since ceased operations and Fuscellaro operates a private law practice in Wildwood.
He specializes in matrimonial, plaintiff and municipal cases.
Burke said that after reviewing witness statements he found none specifically said Fuscellaro was involved. The documents he collected were turned in to the federal government several months ago and after the completion of the federal investigation the government moved to dismiss the charge.
Burke credited Smith and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their honesty and integrity in resolving the case.
“He and his wife have been under a lot of stress,” Burke said of Fuscellaro. “But he’s kept his head high.”
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