Roxanne Tubolino of Belchertown sentenced to serve 3 years and 3 months in federal prison, pay restitution for embezzling $1.5 million from Northampton Internal Medicine Associates



Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2015

SPRINGFIELD — At Monday’s sentencing of Roxanne Tubolino, who admitted in January to embezzling more than $1.5 million from a Northampton medical practice, staff members still in their scrubs shook their heads as defense attorney Andrew G. Levchuk told the judge that Tubolino stole the money to “feed the beast” — her abusive ex-husband.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni said that while he sympathized with what Tubolino had been through, the defense theory did not add up.

“I’m not seeing the connection between that and the offenses you committed. I’m more seeing your hobbies, your trips, your clothing, your material things,” he told the 57-year-old former office manager. “It all runs back to you.”

Mastroianni sentenced Tubolino, of Belchertown, to 3 years and 3 months in federal prison followed by probation. He ordered her to pay back the money she stole from Northampton Internal Medicine Associates between 2008 and 2013, plus $25,000 to its insurance company, and $506,447 to the IRS.

Among the things Tubolino bought with money stolen from the medical practice were season tickets to the Boston Bruins, vehicles for her and her family, and numerous prize-winning Morgan horses she was showing at regional competitions as recently as a few weeks ago, according to U.S. Attorney Steven Breslow. Levchuk argued that the horse is owned by Tubolino’s mother, Rita Lawler of South Hadley, and is registered in Tubolino’s name because she rides it at shows.

In deciding on Tubolino’s sentence, Mastroianni said he considered the “staggering” harm she did to the medical practice and its employees, saying her theft was a “very strong contributing factor to the financial downfall of the practice.”

The four-physician practice at 190 Nonotuck St. will dissolve in November, Breslow said. The financial hardship caused by Tubolino’s years of larceny is one reason the partners decided to part ways, he said.

Dr. Deborah E. Smith, the partner who experienced the biggest loss due to the theft, said she recorded no earned income in 2013, and some of the doctors have had to forgo salaries in order to pay other staff since Tubolino’s scheme was uncovered.

Breslow had recommended a sentence of 4 years and 9 months in prison, while Levchuk asked for one year. Tubolino, of 479 Franklin St., is required to surrender Sept. 24 to the minimum-security prison camp in Danbury, Connecticut.

As the 16 people associated with Northampton Internal Medicine Associates filed out of the courtroom, several said they felt the sentence was too lenient.

“The emotional part of me would have preferred a longer sentence, but the important thing for all of us now is to put this behind us as much as we can,” Smith said.

Levchuk and Tubolino’s family declined to comment.

Fraudulent checks

When Tubolino pleaded guilty to wire fraud and six counts of tax evasion in January, she admitted she had been writing checks from the business to pay her credit card bills and concealing it by logging the checks as expenses — mostly oncology medicines and devices. Each year from 2008 to 2012, she stole between $253,919 and $305,395, according to court records.

While her attorney maintained that she confessed her crimes to a doctor in September 2013, Smith told Mastroianni Monday that she discovered her employee’s scheme after noticing how poorly paid her oncology practice was for a time in 2013, and then examining Tubolino’s invoices and bookkeeping. When she demanded the records from Tubolino and asked her about discrepancies, Tubolino confessed, but said she only started stealing months before.

Smith said in January that oncology drugs are extremely expensive, so it was not unusual for Tubolino to write checks for $20,000. Although the statute of limitations only allows Tubolino to be charged going back to 2008, Smith said bank records show she stole $1.8 million going back to 2006.

Tubolino read a statement Monday, crying as she apologized for the shame she brought on her family, including her two children, and the pain she caused her victims.

“I completely let them down and stole from them,” she said. “I just got so wrapped up in everything ... I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Levchuk said his client’s theft began in 2006 due to her series of abusive husbands and was looking to “stop the pain at home.”

“The only rational explanation is she snapped,” he said.

Tubolino described an abusive first marriage that ended in 2002, and then falling in love with her second husband, who she said was an alcoholic, a drug addict and also physically abusive. Tubolino said she started buying him things, and threw herself into her horses, buying many things for her friend’s horse farm, where she kept her horses.

Levchuk said his client has suffered due to shame and remorse, plus the loss of her job and her now huge debt, he said. “Ms. Tubolino’s life is ruined. She has nothing,” he said.

But Breslow said it was absurd to suggest that Tubolino is the one whose life was ruined, when the real victims were sitting elsewhere in the courtroom. He showed the court a photograph of Tubolino smiling in a top hat and coat tails on a show horse in 2014, and another photograph from the Massachusetts Morgan Horse Show on Aug. 15. He suggested she has spent money on her hobby that should have gone to pay restitution.

Before her scheme was discovered, he said, Tubolino lived a “lavish lifestyle” while her thefts left the medical practice in such bad financial shape that employees’ hours were cut and they did not receive raises.

In a letter to the court, technician Jacqueline Pelott said she begged Tubolino around Christmas 2012 to give her more hours because she was afraid she would not be able to feed her family, let alone buy presents. Tubolino — who fellow employees said was cruel and verbally abusive to staff — told her that everyone was having a hard time, including herself, and she should feel lucky to have a job, Pelott said.

Pelott sobbed as she told Mastroianni that, partly because of Tubolino’s selfish choices, “we are no longer going to have jobs.” Other medical staff in the courtroom also cried as she described her anxiety over finding a new job and making ends meet. “Everything is falling out from under me,” she said.

Levchuk said that bigger problems at the practice caused the financial problems.

Tubolino and the doctors from Northampton Internal Medicine Associates also argued about who was the mastermind behind a fraudulent scheme that involved buying cheaper medical devices from Canada and billing Medicare and private insurance companies for the full amount.

Levchuk asked Mastroianni to be lenient because Tubolino had revealed the scheme — which she said was perpetrated by a doctor — to the federal government. But Smith and the doctor in question, Teresa Klich-Nowak, said Tubolino was responsible for all the ordering and billing, and executed the fraud herself.

The office self-reported the violation to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, on Nov. 4, 2013, and paid a $285,000 fine, court records show.

Prison and payment

Mastroianni said that although judicial rules call for a sentence that is not overly punitive, part of him felt Tubolino deserved a harsher punishment. Even after he announced the sentence, he paused and told her, “Frankly, I sit here and struggle to not go higher.”

He described what she did as “pure crime,” not influenced by addiction to drugs or gambling. “What this is not is a short-term, inexplicable instance of abhorrent behavior that can be easily excused or pushed to the side — because it went on for years,” he said.

Breslow asked Mastroianni to consider a restraint to prevent Tubolino in the next month from “spending the victims’ money” on horses and other things when it should be forfeited and used as restitution.

Levchuk again said the horses were paid for by Tubolino’s mother, but Mastroianni told Tubolino that she would have to provide a detailed budget to the Probation Department and stick to it until she goes to prison in September.

Tubolino has turned over her $324,053 in retirement savings toward the $1,562,206 restitution to the medical practice. She owes $1,238,153 to the practice plus the money for the insurance company and the IRS, for a total of $1,769,600.

The U.S. attorney’s office is seeking forfeiture of up to $1.56 million of her material possessions to help her pay restitution. It is also allowing her to sell her house, worth about $350,000, to pay up.

The attorney’s office seeks the forfeiture of 21 Morgan horses, four bank accounts, four vehicles, three horse trailers, two motorcycles, and sports memorabilia and horse equipment.

In a response filed in court, Levchuk said Tubolino owns none of the horses, although some belong to her mother and daughter. Eight are dead, he said. Also, he stated, one bank account and two motorcycles belong to her ex-husband, two vehicles have been sold and she does not own two of the horse trailers.

The attorneys will argue the matter of forfeiture at a later date.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.


 


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