TOMS RIVER – A Ukrainian passport, $180,000 in vacuum-sealed bundles of $10,000 each, $1 million stashed overseas and a handwritten checklist on inventing a new backstory were all parts of Carlo Amato’s plan to flee to Russia, prosecutors argued Thursday.
It was enough to convince Superior Court Judge Michael T. Collins to order the 56-year-old Beachwood chiropractor jailed until his trial.
Amato stands accused of overbilling insurance companies and money laundering, and is also facing a charge of fentanyl possession. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid frequently combined with heroin, often fatally. All in all, Amato is facing over a dozen criminal charges.
Authorities first charged Amato with four counts of fraudulent billings and the drug count in December 2016, before the state’s new bail law— which mostly eliminated cash bail — took effect. He posted a $150,000 bail and was released.
An October indictment expanded the charges to a total of 15 counts, including theft, money laundering, fraud and the drug charge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, with help from local police in Beachwood, sent Amato back to the Ocean County Jail in Toms River Dec. 12 after finding his stash and charging him anew with money laundering and other crimes, O’Malley said.
At a detention hearing Thursday, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Jill O’Malley ticked off a half-dozen reasons why Amato should remain behind bars.
Authorities discovered the parcels of cash Dec.12 along with an expired Ukrainian passport and a written reminder to alter one to make it current, she said. Investigators also found a Mexican identification card bearing Amato’s picture and an alias, a New Jersey driver’s license with Amato’s face and another alias and passport photographs, O’Malley said.
Authorities believed he had sent money to Russia, where they also suspect his wife was waiting for him.
An undercover federal agent received chiropractic services at Amato’s clinic despite Amato giving up his license, O’Malley said. There were also new allegations of disability fraud.
Finally, Amato filed a police report in Freehold, telling police that he had lost a bank bag with his New Zealand passport inside, O’Malley said..
“His New Zealand passport is in possession of the state of New Jersey. He was required to turn it over,” O’Malley said. “By filing a police report — a false police report — with the Freehold Township police, he could bring this to the embassy and apply for a new passport. With a new passport he could leave the country.”
He had a list written out on how to do just that, she said, including an oblique reference to “no fingerprints.”
“Mr. Amato has continued to ignore almost every court order during his release. Mr. Amato seems to think he is above the law,” O’Malley said. “Perhaps it is because he has a degree, or he has money. Mr. Amato does not think the rules apply to him.”
Amato’s attorney, Thomas Ashton, argued that his client maintained his innocence, was facing no accusations of violent crimes, had in fact stopped practicing and did not have any assets with which to flee.
As for the ties to Russia, “I think it’s more illusory,” Ashton said.
Amato had lived in Ocean County nearly his entire life, Ashton said, and the funds he had invested in attorneys indicated a man who intended to fight the charges against him.
Collins wasn’t sold.
“The risk of flight trumps everything else in this matter,” Collins decided.
The judge also revoked the bail Amato had posted on his first round of charges.