By Joe McDonald, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
March 08--After deliberating just 45 minutes, a Lackawanna County jury convicted tow-truck businessman and former mayoral candidate Bob Bolus on Wednesday of insurance fraud and theft by deception involving a claim he submitted that prosecutors said was grossly inflated and included damages that could not possibly have happened in the crash.
Outside the courthouse after the verdict Mr. Bolus said he was the victim of a "political assassination" and "disappointed," not only by the verdict but testimony his son gave on behalf of the prosecution regarding a towing bill they said was bogus.
Mr. Bolus, who is no stranger to the media and has fashioned himself a civic leader in various ways, including funding Christmas dinners for the poor, said the verdict was a life-changing moment for him.
Standing before a row of TV cameras, Mr. Bolus said he was "done" with the area. "No more doing anything for the area," Mr. Bolus said.
Nino Tinari, the lawyer for Mr. Bolus, said sentencing guidelines on the two felonies expose Mr. Bolus to a nine-month sentence.
Judge Vito P. Geroulo, who presided over the three-day trial, did not set a sentencing date for Mr. Bolus, who is free on bail.
In closing arguments, Mr. Tinari said the case against Mr. Bolus was really a civil dispute between a businessman and an insurance company that was trying to save money. Mr. Tinari said there was no evidence of "need or greed" in the prosecution's case against Mr. Bolus, whom he described as a millionaire.
As for the prosecution's claims that Mr. Bolus had lumped old damage into the new damage on his 1995 tow truck with more than a million miles, Mr. Tinari said, "There was nothing at all that was deceptive."
John Dickinson, the senior deputy attorney general on the case, disagreed, pointing out that Mr. Bolus' tow truck insurance claim contained damage on the side of the vehicle that had not been struck by a dump truck whose mirror sideswiped Mr. Bolus' tow truck and another vehicle it had been towing.
"This accident didn't cause all this damage," Mr. Dickinson said. The accident happened March 17, 2009, in central Pennsylvania.
The insurance claim for the damage on Mr. Bolus' truck was $24,000, a figure Mr. Dickinson said was a "vast discrepancy" between the damages that were caused in the accident.
"This was a crime of opportunity," Mr. Dickinson said. "He saw an opportunity to get a makeover of a well-worn towing truck."
The prosecutor called Mr. Bolus a "determined opportunist."
Mr. Bolus testified in his defense. He choked up on the stand and wiped tears from eyes when Mr. Tinari asked about his son Brian's testimony.
Mr. Bolus said he had given his son hundreds of thousands of dollars and "gave him everything he has today," denying his son's testimony that his father never gave him a dime.
"I don't know what happened to him," Mr. Bolus said. "His ego got in the way."
Mr. Bolus has had a previous brush with the law. A jury convicted him in September 1991 of two counts of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with evidence and one count of criminal solicitation. He was sentenced to four months to two years in county prison, which he served in a work-release program.
He is involved in a running dispute in a lawsuit in which he claims his neighbors and two companies caused damage to his Birch Street home.
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