Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ex-lawyer in Charleroi admits defrauding elderly woman, used money to run Mon Valley newspaper

Keith Allen Bassi, a former lawyer, admitted Monday morning that he stole half a million dollars from an elderly lady with dementia and used some of it to run the newspaper, the Mon Valley Independent.

Mr. Bassi, 61, of Charleroi, pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud counts in ripping off a woman identified as "N.J.L," who is 85 and living in a Mt. Lebanon care home.

Prosecutors said he pilfered about $505,000 from her accounts and put the money in his own accounts, including that of the paper he co-owns.

"It's certainly despicable," said the woman's 75-year-old cousin, who is seeking to become her legal guardian and watched the proceedings before U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab.

He asked that he and she not be named publicly until guardianship is granted.

Mr. Bassi was charged Sept. 25 after an investigation by the FBI and U.S. postal inspectors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Greg Melucci said he gained power of attorney over her estate, which could be worth some $3 million, in 2006. The woman, a former Pittsburgh public schools principal, was diagnosed with dementia in 2012.

It was then that Mr. Bassi began maneuvering to transfer money out of her accounts and into his.

Mr. Melucci said he misappropriated the funds between 2013 and 2016.

As part of the scheme, he used her money to a $55,000 annual premium on a life insurance policy between 2013 and 2015, then asked for a "surrender request" for the policy in 2016 and deposited the amount, about $163,000, into his personal account.

Mr. Bassi also deposited $110,000 of N.J.L.'s money into the publishing company account at CFS Bank.

Mr. Melucci said federal agents, who learned of the fraud by monitoring suspicious banking transactions, confronted Mr. Bassi in May. He admitted to the crime and said he did it because of "financial issues."

Mr. Bassi's law license has been suspended. He remains free on bond pending sentencing March 14.

He said nothing in court except to answer Judge Schwab's questions about his guilt. The exact amount of money he stole is in some dispute and will be worked out before the sentencing.

"Mr. Bassi has agreed to pay full restitution," said his lawyer, Stephen Stallings.

He declined further comment as he left the courthouse with his client.

The victim's cousin, a former teacher and attorney, contacted the U.S. attorney's office and Judge Schwab after reading about the fraud in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week.

In a letter to them, he said he suspects Mr. Bassi may have stolen more than the $505,000 for which he was charged. He said he and other family members had received a letter from Mr. Bassi after N.J.L. had moved to the nursing home in 2015 indicating that he was auctioning off the personal property that she had kept at the family farm in Washington County.

The cousin said no one has seen those proceeds.

Among her collections, he said, was China worth some $100,000, figurines valued at $2,000 each and family memorabilia. The house, which was sold in 2012, dates to the 1780s.

"I'd just like to know what the hell happened to the other stuff," her cousin said. 

Full Article & Source:
Ex-lawyer in Charleroi admits defrauding elderly woman, used money to run Mon Valley newspaper

1 comment:

Finny said...

I hope her cousin gets to be her guardian but it's doubtful.