ALBANY – A former nun, who nearly 30 years ago was found to have defrauded a group of anesthesiologists, is being accused of draining nearly $1 million from an Albany dentist’s bank accounts.
Dr. James McMahon Jr., who operates McMahon Family Dentistry and J. McMahon Properties, LLC, filed the civil lawsuit Sept. 20, accusing Mary Ann Fuina, 80, of making 37 unauthorized withdrawals from his accounts, totaling $961,000, and using shell companies to hide the withdrawals from McMahon.
The lawsuit also names Fuina’s bookkeeping firm, Billing Electronic Systems Technology, of Colonie, Christine Mosher, an employee at the firm,
Barbara O’Brien, the CEO of NorthEast IT Group, and Scott, Stackrow & Co., a Troy accounting firm that both McMahon and Fuina used.
The withdrawals went to cover unspecified personal and business expenses for Fuina, according to the lawsuit.
McMahon and his attorney, Donald Hillmann, declined to comment earlier this week.
Phone numbers associated with Fuina were disconnected; a message to Billing Electronic Systems Technology was not returned. O’Brien and Mosher could not be reached for comment. No one answered the door at an Albany house that records suggest is Fuina’s home.
A representative from Scott, Stackrow & Co., did not return a message asking for comment.
In 1991, a federal jury found in a civil lawsuit that Fuina, a former Sister of Mercy, defrauded Capital District Professional Management Systems by using company assets for her own benefit and made unauthorized credit-card purchases and took loans. The group sued Fuina in 1989 under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, a law originally enacted to combat organized crime.
According to Times Union archives, Fuina worked for Professional Management Systems, a medical billing company set up by the anesthesiologists, for 16 years before resigning in June 1989 to form a rival company, Billing Electronic Systems Technology.
The jury awarded the group $750,000 in damages but did not find that Fuina violated the RICO Act. It does not appear that Fuina was ever criminally charged in that case.
At that time, Fuina was also sued in state Supreme Court for shifting $200,000 in corporate funds into her own bank account and criminal theft of trade secrets when she set up her bookkeeping company before resigning from Professional Management Systems, according to Times Union archives. That lawsuit also named Barbara O’Brien, who left the billing group to go work with Fuina. The results of that lawsuit were not immediately available.
The federal lawsuit alleged that while Fuina worked with Professional Management Services she ran up company debt to embezzle at least $60,000; submitted loan applications with fake signatures of company officers; charged to the firm thousands of dollars of personal purchases, including dog biscuits, bedsheets, a videocassette recorder and bicycle rack; billed the company for $5,510 worth of landscaping at her home; and sold to St. Peter’s Hospital for $19,330 part of the company’s leased telephone system.
It also alleges that Fuina diverted $15,500 through a company called Showcase Construction to one of the three employees who resigned with her and had the company pay about $30,000 to a firm she owned and operated, Management Advice Financial Planning, for work that was never done.
That firm, which was dissolved in 1990, played a key role in the new allegations, which lay out a simpler scheme.
Beginning in early 2017, Fuina allegedly made periodic withdrawals from McMahon’s accounts, typically by taking money from the dentistry’s account or line of credit, moving it to the property LLC and then writing herself a check or writing checks to Management Advice & Future Planning, according to the lawsuit. The LLC later received a check from Management Advice Financial Planning, the firm that Fuina dissolved in 1990.
According to the lawsuit and public records, O’Brien and Fuina are involved in each other’s businesses. The lawsuit claims, but does not exactly say how, that O’Brien either knew of the withdrawals or assisted with them.
McMahon hired Fuina and the other defendants in September 2006 to provide services for the dentistry practice he took over from his father, as well for his personal and business accounts. And McMahon appeared to have no cause for complaint until early 2019 when M&T Bank alerted him about several large withdrawals from his accounts. It was unclear why the bank did not alert him of the withdrawals for nearly two years.
Fuina allegedly made the first withdrawal on Jan. 4, 2017, taking $18,000 from one of McMahon’s accounts, according to a schedule of the alleged withdrawals filed with the lawsuit.
Another $18,000 was withdrawn a month later, followed by $45,000 on Feb. 6, 2017, according to the withdrawal scheduled filed with the lawsuit.
The withdrawals continued, with at least one a month through the end of the year. In August 2017 alone, Fuina allegedly withdrew a combined $101,000 from McMahon’s accounts.
The schedule filed with the lawsuit indicates she made at least some attempts at replenishing the funds. Over a three-day period at the end of December 2017 $200,000 was put back into McMahon’s accounts.
Five days later, Fuina allegedly made another $20,000 withdrawal.
The complaint also alleges that Fuina overcharged McMahon $20,000 for her services and assumed responsibility a $100,000 loan McMahon made to her sister.
Fuina allegedly used the funds for her personal use but the lawsuit does not specify what McMahon believes she spent the money on.
When McMahon confronted her about the missing money, Fuina was evasive and McMahon didn’t learn the full extent of his losses until May 2019, according to the complaint. McMahon said Fuina admitted to taking the money and proposed a restitution plan but also claimed that the money was a loan that she had always intended to repay.
In the complaint, McMahon’s attorney argues that Mosher, one of the Fuina’s employees who had access to McMahon’s check signature stamp, O’Brien, and the accounting firm all either had knowledge of the alleged thefts or should have realized what was going on. The lawsuit alleges, relying on the IP address, that Mosher’s computer was the one used to transfer funds. It does not allege that Mosher directly transferred the funds or received any of the money personally.
It also alleges that since the Scott, Stackrow firm was the accountant for McMahon and Fuina, the firm should have realized that the large, periodic withdrawals were improper and violated the firm’s fiduciary duties.
McMahon is asking for damages, interest and attorney’s fees. None of the plaintiffs filed a reply to the complaint as of Wednesday afternoon.
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