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The ugly truth behind this young mother’s Facebook facade

Posted at 11:00 PM, Oct 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-03 12:30:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Photos on her Facebook page showed a happy, young woman with a big smile that matched big plans for her future.  Amber Rose Fusco posted about becoming a licensed nursing assistant, opening her own salon, and loving time she was able to spend with her children.

But Amber's real life did not match her Facebook facade.

The 30-year-old mother of two now sits in federal prison after she convicted in a crime spree that stretched from her Vermont home to the West End.

Crime Insider reporter Jon Burkett cracked open Fusco's case file to investigate how the young mother turned into one of America’s most wanted.

Fusco first appeared on the radar of Richmond-area police on December 20, 2017.

That day, she  walked into the BB&T bank on Lakeside Avenue, let a few customers cut in front of her in line, and then handed the teller a note.

The robber showed the bank teller a chrome revolver and told her to "hurry up."

The clerk handed over her more than $1,000, which the robber took and left.

Three days later, on December 23, another bank robbery.

This time she walked into the Wells Fargo on West Broad Street near Staples Mill Road.

Again, she handed over a threatening note.

The teller handed Fusco $4,400 cash and Amber was gone.

What led Amber Fusco to becoming a serial bank robber?

A search through court documents revealed her journey to federal prison began years before the Richmond robberies. It was a journey that appeared to be fueled by drug addiction.

"When you’re toxic, when you’re on a drug frenzy, all bets are off, no telling how it could end," John Shinholser, head of Richmond-area drug rehab facility the McShin Foundation, said.

Between July 2011 and December 2017, Fusco was convicted of committing a dozen crimes – not including the Richmond bank robberies.

The list included assault on a police officer, disorderly conduct, theft, and driving under the influence. But perhaps the most disturbing incidents took place in August 2017 when police in Vermont arrested Fusco three times in one week. One of arrest came after officers responded to a call of two women slumped over in a car.

Inside the vehicle, officers found a glass pipe, white powder, a needle, and a two-year-old child.

The child was Fusco’s daughter. Police determined Fusco had not only done drugs in front of the young girl, but also left the toddler alone in the vehicle with another drug user, so that she could buy alcohol.

"That doesn’t surprise me, it happens all across America, daily, this is just a terrible example," Shinholser said. "When you put your child at risk like that, that was a good indicator this woman has a deep illness."

Fusco was charged with felony child cruelty. She was found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail. She served just 20 days.

All of Fusco's previous crimes took places in Vermont, the state where Fusco was born and apparently lived her entire life.

So why did she end up in Richmond?

In a court filing, Fusco said she was in the “throes of a heroin addiction” when she made the 600-mile trip from Vermont to Virginia.

She claimed a man named Andrew Welton Jr. was her drug dealer, and that he convinced both Fusco and her friend Jennifer Bessette to drive with him from Vermont to his hometown of Richmond to buy Christmas presents.

The group took two cars. Welton’s young child went with them.

On the way south, the group stopped in New York City.

On December 19, Fusco, Bessette, and Welton entered a Manhattan jewelry store where Fusco tried on a $35,000 Rolex.

With the watch on her wrist, Fusco ran out of the store.

Security caught up to her and got the watch back, but Fusco got away, and eventually hooked back up with Welton and Bessette.

The very next day, Fusco -- with the help of her friends -- robbed the first of two Central Virginia banks.

Court documents detailed the group's plan of attack.

Bessette would drop off Fusco at the banks, park nearby, and then serve as the getaway driver.

But after the December 23 robbery, Fusco got out of Bessette’s car, changed clothes, and got into a silver Ford Fusion with Welton and his child.

Remember she got away with $4,400 that day? That's not all she got.

The bank teller attached a GPS tracking device to stolen money.

Richmond Police tracked the money toward the Forest Hill Avenue toll plaza. Police blocked traffic and began checking cars.

Since Fusco, Welton, and the child did not fit the description of the suspects, they were all allowed to leave.

A short time later, police realized that the Fusion was involved in the robbery. After a brief chase, officers arrested Welton near the intersection of Patterson Avenue and Parham Road. But by the that time, Fusco was no longer in the car.

She and Bessette eventually made their way back to Vermont. In January, Fusco robbed three more banks. But by then, the FBI was on her trail.

After getting Bessette’s phone number from Welton’s cell phone, agents used another GPS tracking device to track down the women.

Fusco was captured February 18 and almost immediately confessed to her role in the robberies.

In a court filing earlier this year, she described herself as a broken person who used drugs to escape a life of pain. She blamed a childhood filled with chaos, substance abuse, and violence.

"I think the judges are sympathetic to the notion that somebody is a mother," Ron Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI, said. "[It would be] a better excuse if she was feeding her family with the stolen money , rather than feeding a drug addiction."

In June 2018, Fusco reached a plea deal with prosecutors and was eventually sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

"It’s always a very sad thing to see someone like this, who has a young child, going away for so long," CBS 6 legal analyst and Richmond defense attorney Todd Stone said. "When you show a weapon to someone who’s working at a bank, you know, that’s the sort of threat of violence that really brings it to a different level and makes it more aggravated."

The judge has ordered Fusco to pay back to the money she stole and enroll in the bureau of prisons’ 500-hour intensive drug treatment program. When she’s released, she will have to participate in drug and mental health treatment programs approved by the U.S. probation office.

Her young children will likely be in their late teens by that time.

In an interview with CBS 6, Amber Fusco’s father said he was -- in a way -- glad his daughter was in prison. He said he believed the prison sentence will keep his daughter from dying an early death. Fusco will serve her sentence at the federal correctional institute in Danbury, Connecticut. It's the same place where Jennifer Bessette is incarcerated.

Welton was booked in Richmond jail where he facing numerous charges, including reckless care for a child.