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CEDAR RAPIDS — A local stand-up comic and former weight-loss products salesman was sentenced to one year in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution for collecting disability benefits while being employed.
Dustin F. Ruzicka, 50, known as comic “Bustin Dustin,” pleaded last November in U.S. District Court to one count of Social Security Disability insurance benefits fraud.
Ruzicka started receiving benefits in 1992 for plantar fasciitis — a foot inflammation — and “adjustment disorder,” according to plea agreement court documents.
U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said Ruzicka had documented foot and ankle problems and was diagnosed with personality disorder and another mental health issue, but the judge didn’t know the level of severity of those issues.
One of the most concerning things was that Ruzicka routed his checks from a weight loss company and other employment through a friend’s bank account.
Ruzicka said he did this because he couldn’t control his money, but the money was sent immediately to Ruzicka, Williams said. As a result, Ruzicka was hiding where the money came from — “that’s money laundering,” the judge added.
Ruzicka’s standup comic work is “inconsistent” with his foot and ankle issues, as well as him being a karate and martial arts instructor, Williams said. He lied to Social Security Administration investigators about his limitations of not being about to stand or drive a car, the judge said.
The investigators, after interviewing Ruzicka, witnessed him driving a car for 52 minutes, Williams noted.
“He lied and cheated to steal from the Social Security Administration,” Williams said in denying the defense’s request for a lesser sentence based on Ruzicka’s physical and mental issues.
Williams also said Ruzicka’s criminal history of violence was another concern because it includes two domestic assaults and assault causing bodily injury and carrying a concealed weapon, even though those offenses happened when he was younger.
However, Ruzicka had a recent conviction in 2019 of harassment, which involved a woman he was dating at the time. Ruzicka went through the woman’s phone while she was sleeping and sent nude photos of her to at least 10 people on social media.
Ruzicka, during sentencing, admitted his “wrongdoing and fraudulent” actions. He admitted he was wrong and “got caught up” in the money and spending. He said he lied to cover up his “embarrassment.”
Ruzicka told the judge the thing “that hurts the most” was losing the respect of his kids after they saw a news article on his conviction. He also lost a job the next day after his employer saw the article.
Ruzicka started his comedy act in 2004, according to the plea. He then went to work for Visalus, selling weight-loss products, and began to receive commissions in July 2010.
According to tax records, he was listed as a national director with the company and earned $1,554 in 2010; $26,887 in 2011; $35,066 in 2012; more than $20,000 each year between 2013 and 2016; and $17,494 in 2017, the plea showed.
Ruzicka's commissions between July 2010 and October 2018 totaled $164,559.
During those same years, he received Social Security disability benefits for himself and his children, totaling $123,841, the plea stated.
In 2015, court documents show, the Social Security Administration received a report that Ruzicka was working as a independent promoter for Visalus and as a stand-up comic. A Visalus posting on Facebook stated Ruzicka had reached $100,000 in earnings.
Ruzicka touted his BMW and 'financial stability” on social media. One post showed his BMW and said he retired in 2011 because of stable employment with Visalus.
Williams ordered Ruzicka to pay $105,676 in restitution and ordered three years of supervised release following prison.
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