When Teresa A. Fusani entered a guilty plea Monday in a barely audible voice to pilfering $90,000 from a youth hockey club, she joined a growing list of bookkeepers and other people entrusted with money who have been embezzling.
“It’s another embezzlement case,” said Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III of the Fusani case. “We have no shortage of them at the District Attorney’s Office, that’s for sure. It seems like every week we’re investigating another embezzlement case.”
She is one of at least 13 people who have either pleaded guilty or been sentenced this year in embezzling cases in the Buffalo Niagara region.
“I think gambling is one reason people might steal,” Sedita said. “We often see people blame it on a gambling habit, when it’s good, old-fashioned greed. Sometimes it’s a drug habit, or they’re in debt. But I think the main one is good, old-fashioned greed.”
And as the Depew woman pleaded guilty pleaded guilty in court, another chapter in the saga appeared to be unfolding – this time about her husband.
Fusani’s husband, a Depew police lieutenant on extended sick leave for about the last year and a half due to a brain injury, is the focus of an internal department investigation, Depew police said.
The probe paralleled the timing of the Erie County district attorney’s investigation into his wife’s thefts from the Depew Saints Hockey Club as its treasurer from 2006 to 2010, and for her continuance to solicit money supposedly on behalf of the organization from local businesses from 2010 through this April, long after she was ousted from her club post.
“We’re not done with that. Now that her case is done, we’ll finish up our investigation,” Depew Police Chief Stan Carwile said Monday afternoon.
“Our internal investigation is nearly complete,” he said “We have to tie up a few loose ends now that Teresa has taken her plea,” he said.
Frank Fusani has not been charged with anything.
Carwile said Fusani recently filed for disability retirement after his doctors told the village he cannot return to work due to his injury.
Depew detectives worked with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office on Teresa Fusani’s case and turned over information to the DA’s team as it unfolded to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to allow the investigation to proceed with transparency.
The Fusanis had been very dedicated to the Saints youth hockey program for a number of years, and two of their children were involved in the league.
Teresa Fusani, who pleaded guilty Monday in State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia’s courtroom, could face a maximum prison term of five to 15 years when she is sentenced Feb. 12. Fusani pleaded to the highest charge for which she could have been convicted, had she gone to trial.
Buscaglia said the maximum sentence he would impose is six months of jail and five years of probation, or he could just put her on probation. Her attorney, Joel Daniels, pledged that she would be making full restitution of the $90,000 before her sentencing date.
Frank Fusani told The Buffalo News earlier this fall that his wife suffers from a gambling addiction and has been receiving help to deal with the problem. Investigators said she told them she used the stolen funds to support her gambling habit.
Assistant District Attorney Brian P. Dassero said that while she was hockey club treasurer, Teresa Fusani oversaw a legitimate hockey club bank account through HSBC Bank.
She also had another account at M&T Bank, with a similar name, which no one else knew about.
Teresa Fusani admitted to stealing money during her tenure as treasurer. She also admitted to sending donation request letters for the hockey club to several Depew area businesses between January 2010 and April 2013, but then kept those donations.
Saints Hockey Club President Dave Borkowski praised the work of the district attorney’s office and village police. “When we were notified about her soliciting donations, and went to the police, we did not realize the (full) scope of it,” Borkowski said. “We thought it was just one donor. We never thought it was of this magnitude.” He said the club will contact businesses that were misled by her to donate, and offer to return their money.
“It was their money. We did not solicit the donation. They thought that money was going to the club, and it didn’t,” Borkowski said.