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Mon Valley Attorney Sentenced to Prison in Fraud Case

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
March 15, 2018
Posted in: Crime and Police News

A former attorney who was accused of funnelling money from one of his client's accounts into his personal businesses --- including the Mon Valley Independent newspaper --- has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for mail fraud.

Keith A. Bassi, 61, of Jefferson Twp., Fayette County, also must pay more than $505,000 in restitution and a $100,000 fine, and forfeit more than $235,515, U.S. Attorney Scott Brady said Wednesday.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab.

A graduate of Yale and Duquesne universities, Bassi was a partner in the Charleroi law firm of Bassi, McCune & Vreeland and a well-known attorney in the mid-Mon Valley, serving as solicitor to several communities and school districts and as general counsel to the former Charleroi Federal Savings Bank, now CFSBank.

But federal prosecutors allege that beginning in 2012, Bassi began misappropriating funds belonging to the estate of an elderly Charleroi woman who was suffering from dementia.

The woman's estate was approximately $2 million when Bassi was asked to serve as her legal guardian.

Between 2012 and 2016, prosecutors said that Bassi funneled the victim's money into several bank accounts he controlled at Charleroi Federal and PNC. In one case, prosecutors said, Bassi purchased a life insurance policy in someone else's name using the victim's money. He then cashed in the policy and kept the proceeds.

He also used $145,000 of the victim’s funds to operate Mid Mon Valley Publishing Co., of which he is a part owner, according to a court filing in the case. The company was formed in 2016 to publish the Mon Valley Independent.

In one instance, the money was used to fund the newspaper's payroll, the court filing indicates.

The fraud was uncovered by U.S. postal inspectors and the FBI, Brady said.

Following Bassi's guilty plea in October 2017, prominent friends wrote letters to Schwab, urging the judge to show lenience to Bassi and sentence him to probation rather than prison.

But Brady said the seriousness of the crime --- and Bassi's abuse of his position of trust as an attorney --- dictated a prison sentence of at least 33 months.

Brady and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory C. Melucci wrote in a court filing that Bassi "abused his role as guardian to the (victim's) estate, and capitalized on her vulnerability."

Bassi voluntarily surrended his law license in August 2017 and was disbarred in December, according to filings at the state Disciplinary Board.

Originally published March 15, 2018.

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