Public Safety

Cedar Rapids comic pleads to taking over $123,000 in disability benefits while employed

He faces up to five years in federal prison

CEDAR RAPIDS — A local stand-up comic and former weight-loss products salesman, who touted his BMW and “financial stability” on social media, pleaded guilty last week to federal charges for bilking over $123,000 in disability benefits while employed.

Dustin F. Ruzicka, 49, known as comic “Bustin Dustin,” pleaded last Tuesday in U.S. District Court to one count of Social Security Disability insurance benefits fraud, according to a plea agreement. He began receiving benefits in 1992 for plantar fasciitis — foot inflammation — and “adjustment disorder,” the plea shows.

Ruzicka started his stand-up 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, his pay rank was listed as a national director with the company and he earned: $1,554 in 2010; $26,887 in 2011; $35,066 in 2012; over $20,000 for each year from 2013 to 2016; and $17,494 in 2017, the plea shows.

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, according to the plea.

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 comedian. A Visalus posting on Facebook stated Ruzicka had reached $100,000 in earnings.

Ruzicka made additional posts on Facebook about his employment. One post showed a photo of his BMW and said he retired in 2011 because his employment with Visalus had provided him financial stability, according to the plea. In April 2016, he posted photos of himself by a hotel pool in Florida and referred to his trip as a tax write-off.

In June of that year, he noted on social media that his involvement in “entrepreneurship” had earned him over $125,000 and his “retirement,” the plea shows.

He also used social media to promote his comedy shows and had an official comedy fan page.

Ruzicka had other social media pages, stating he was a national stand-up comedian, motivational speaker and entrepreneur.

The plea shows there are videos on YouTube promoting his comedy performances and advocating for Visalus products. In the videos he stands and drives independently. In one of the videos from May 2011, Ruzicka touts Visalus products as helping him maintain his focus.

On Jan. 21, 2016, Ruzicka performed his comedy routine in Cedar Rapids, where agents with the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General observed him while he set up the stage for his performance, the plea shows. At one point he knelt on the floor to lay down wires for sound equipment, climbed a ladder and never had to sit down for a disability issue.

During this time, he told agents he had been performing for 12 years and traveled to 36 states to do shows, according to the plea. Ruzicka said he had done up to 100 shows a year. During this performance, agents said he was on his feet the entire time and didn’t appear to have any pain.

The plea shows Ruzicka on benefits forms claimed to have daily pain in his legs and his ability to walk, stand or sit was limited.

Ruzicka also said his pain affected his ability to think and concentrate, according to the plea.

He “knowingly and willfully” made false statements regarding his employment, work history and ability to function, according to the plea.

Agents interviewed Ruzicka at his home in June 2016, and his BMV was parked outside, the plea shows. During this interview, Ruzicka walked with noticeable limp for the first time and admitted he started working for Visalus in February 2010 and his pay was based on commissions. He said the most he ever made was $3,200 in a month but other times he made $300 to $1,000 a month.

He also said he did comedy shows to get extra money and only did about five shows a year, according to the plea. He claimed his Visalus paychecks went into a friend’s account and then transferred to him because he wasn’t “disciplined” with his money.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Sentencing will be set after a presentencing report is completed. Ruzicka faces up to five years in federal prison, a fine and supervised release up to three years following his prison term. He also may have to pay restitution.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.