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
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
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