December 03, 2003

Clinic Sued in Failure to Pay

By Catherine Holahan and Kibret Markos

BERGENFIELD - Dr. Joseph Dello Russo, a high-profile eye surgeon, has made millions performing laser eye surgery at his Bergenfield and Manhattan offices.

So it was an unusual sight when officers from the Bergen County Sheriff's Department came to Dello Russo's New Jersey Eye Center on Monday to tag nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in equipment for repossession.

Dello Russo failed to make timely payments on $737,923 worth of medical equipment leased from Lakeland Bank, according to a civil suit filed by the Montville-based lender. The suit contends that Dello Russo owes $667,784 plus late charges and attorney fees.

Officers did not actually remove any equipment, because of its size and weight. But they did put tags on it indicating that it must not be removed from Dello Russo's Bergenfield office until the bank picks it up.

"We are not in the moving business," said Sheriff Department's spokesman Thom Ammirato. "The equipment was big enough and sophisticated enough to require a mover."

Dello Russo's lawyer in the matter, John Mavroudis, said the doctor is still in business and that the payment dispute stems from confusion over whom Dello Russo should have been writing the checks to.

"This is all part of a very big misunderstanding," Mavroudis said. "There will not be any removal of equipment at this time, and I don't anticipate it will ever come to that."

The New Jersey Eye Center originally received the machines from Tiger Leasing LLC, an equipment-leasing company based in New York. Tiger Leasing later transferred its contract to Lakeland Bank, according to the bank's suit.

Mavroudis said Dello Russo believed his company had paid Tiger Leasing for the items and was not aware of any outstanding debts. Tiger Leasing President Steven Robbins said, "It is something that is presently in the hands of attorneys" and declined further comment.

Mavroudis said the company is negotiating a settlement with the bank. Bank officials did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.

Dello Russo is something of a household name in North Jersey. He advertises widely on the radio and in newspapers and has given free surgery to a radio disc jockey in exchange for on-air promotions. He also has treated such celebrities as Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli and Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman. He operated on national newscaster Jack Ford live on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."

Posted by Admin at December 3, 2003 02:42 AM