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A suspended attorney pleaded guilty on Monday to charges he embezzled funds from one of his clients, then used the money to support the Mon Valley Independent newspaper.
Keith A. Bassi, 61, of Jefferson Twp., Fayette County, will be sentenced on three counts of mail fraud March 14 by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, said a spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song. Bassi faces up to 60 years in prison, a fine of $750,000, or both.
Bassi's license to practice law has been suspended, the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced on Aug. 16.
Prosecutors said that Bassi had power of attorney over the estate of an elderly client suffering from dementia. They accuse him of engaging in "a series of financial transactions" in which he diverted the estate's assets into his own accounts at CFS Bank and PNC Bank.
According to investigators, some of the funds were used to support the operation of the Independent, a daily newspaper which he helped to found with three other investors. The paper, which began publication in May 2016, recently expanded into the McKeesport area.
The newspaper reported on Sept. 27 that the criminal investigation of Bassi "will not affect the newspaper's operations," while Bassi's attorney was quoted as saying anyone defrauded would be "made whole with no financial losses."
Bassi was a former partner in the law firm Bassi, Vreeland & Associates and, among other his duties, served as city solicitor for Monongahela, Washington County.
Prosecutors allege that in one instance, Bassi purchased an insurance policy using the victim's funds, then cancelled the policy and kept the cash proceeds for himself.
The victim has not been identified.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory C. Melucci is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspectors and the FBI.
Originally published October 16, 2017.