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Accused RI insurance scofflaw who ignored state orders indicted for fraud in New Hampshire

Target 12

CONCORD, N.H. (WPRI) — A New Hampshire resident, who for years ignored cease and desist orders aimed at his Rhode Island companies, was indicted on federal fraud charges.

Leo Rush, 77, of Pelham, was arrested Friday morning and later in the day pleaded not guilty to five counts of mail fraud and five counts of wire fraud during his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Concord.

Rush specialized in surety bonds for construction projects and, according to the indictment, from July 2012 to June 2019, “Rush sold Newport Insurance surety bonds in several different states.”

The Newport Insurance website listed the Alice building on Providence’s Westminster Street as its address for years. The site now states the company is based in Haiti.

Target 12 reported in 2017 the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) had “often frustrating” contact with Rush as far back as 2007 when the first of several cease and desist orders were issued to Rush-owned companies.

Insurance regulators in Connecticut and Florida also have issued orders for Rush to stop selling bonds.

Contractors are required to pay for performance bonds to cover the cost of a project if something goes wrong, with the insurer accepting the often multimillion-dollar risk in exchange for a percentage of the total cost of the project.

The bonds ultimately protect taxpayers, and state regulators have told Target 12 municipalities are expected to check if the bonds are legitimate.

Coventry developer John Gauvin found out the hard way about a bogus bond purchased by his former contractor from one of Rush’s companies during a Plainfield, Conn. housing-development project.

In 2012, Gauvin discovered the Great Northern Bonding Company bond turned out to be, in his words, “not worth the paper it was written on.”

Gauvin has sued the contractor for using a fraudulent bond for his project.

Gauvin said he is about to sue the town for not inspecting the bond provided by the contractor.

Rush has told Target 12 his bonds are legitimate and he has done nothing wrong.

A warrant executed last summer to search Rush’s home alleged he made more than $1 million in one year around 2007 selling “fake bonds” to companies around the country.

Also, according to the document, over the course of about a year, ending last September, Rush deposited approximately $230,000 in sales of what investigators allege were “fake surety bonds.”

The warrant stated Rush’s company had recently sold insurance to businesses in Southern New England and across the country.

The 2018 warrant returned a number of items from Rush’s home, including a computer and “paper records.”

Send your story ideas to Target 12 Investigator Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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