FOSTER FATHER OF 28 CHARGED WITH ABUSING FIVE BOYS

Date: 1999-10-27

Author: Associated Press

Dateline: PHILADELPHIA

A successful songwriter who was an adoptive and foster father of 28 children surrendered to police Tuesday after five boys in his care accused him of sexual abuse.

Thomas Cusick, a Toms River native, was charged with multiple counts of corruption of a minor, indecent assault and child endangerment. If convicted, he could receive up to 35 years in prison.

Cusick, 47, was released on $300,000 bail. No preliminary hearing date was set.

His lawyer, Kevin M. Zlock, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Cusick's songs include "Don't You Go," recorded by Ricky Martin. His songs also have been recorded by artists including Lionel Richie, Tony Orlando, Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, prosecutors said.

Since 1972, Cusick has been an adoptive or foster father to 28 boys and four girls in Pennsylvania and New York, police said. He began taking in children at age 18, when he lived on New York City's Staten Island, Bucks County District Attorney Alan M. Rubenstein said.

Since January 1998, Cusick and several boys and young men have lived in a seven-bedroom house in an affluent subdivision of Langhorne, about 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia.

Cusick, who has no prior criminal record, was married briefly in the early 1980s but adopted most of the children when he was single, authorities said. He received several awards and letters of commendation from adoption advocacy groups and community service programs, Rubenstein said.

The investigation started a month ago when a 17-year-old adopted son made the first allegations to police, Rubenstein said.

Authorities then interviewed four other boys, between the ages of 8 and 16, who reported similar assaults, Rubenstein said. Most were adopted at about 8 or 9 years old from Downey Side, a respected agency that finds homes for New York City children deemed hard to place.

The five were among 11 boys, all minors, who were removed from the house shortly after the investigation began and placed in foster care, Rubenstein said. Two other adopted sons, both 19, moved out of the house Monday.

Police arriving at Cusick's home to arrest him Monday found that he and a woman described as a live-in housekeeper had already cleared out their belongings, police Detective Andy Amoroso said. There was no word where Cusick was until his surrender on Tuesday.

Charges also could be filed in New York, according to the district attorney's office on Staten Island. At least one assault took place there, according to court documents.

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