Suspended Charleroi attorney faces federal mail fraud charges

Keith Alan Bassi intends to waive indictment

September 26, 2017
Keith Bassi

A suspended Charleroi attorney who publishes a Mon Valley newspaper has been accused in federal court of stealing more than half a million dollars from a client with Alzheimer’s disease and using some of it to finance his newspaper.

Keith Alan Bassi, 61, used a general power of attorney to steal the money from a woman identified in court records as “N.J.L.,” beginning in 2012 when she was diagnosed as having dementia and Alzheimer’s, prosecutors allege in the bill of information filed Monday.

Bassi intends to waive the grand jury indictment, which charges him with three felony counts of mail fraud, and the court will schedule a date for him to enter a plea, said Margaret Philbin, spokeswoman for Acting U.S. Attorney Soo Song in Pittsburgh. Bassi had yet to enter an attorney of record in the case, she said.

The bill of information accuses him of using about $110,000 to fund his publication, Mon Valley Independent of Monessen, and using other funds stolen from the woman for his personal use, the record shows.

He also is accused of using the woman’s money to pay premiums on a $1.2 million life insurance policy insuring him, with death benefits going to a person identified only as B.B., who is not a defendant, according to the record signed by Song. In September 2016, Bassi filed a “surrender request” for the policy and received a check from the insurance company for $163,086, which he deposited into his money market account, prosecutors said.

Bassi, of 109 Mood Lane, Jefferson Township, Fayette City, hasn’t practiced law since June at Bassi, Vreeland and Associates in Charleroi, the state Supreme Court said last month when his suspension was announced. The temporary suspension became effective Sept. 15, and there has been no further action by that court regarding Bassi’s status.

The power of attorney executed by N.J.L. gave Bassi permission to authorize the spending of money for her “material care, investments and compensation for services rendered,” the prosecution stated in the record. She has been in the dementia unit of a care facility since 2015 and has no living family members other than distant cousins.

Bassi is accused of drawing $50,000 from the woman’s assets in February 2016 and depositing the money into a checking account at CFS Bank held in the name of Mid-Mon Valley Publishing Co., which he owns with three other investors. Additionally, he is accused of drawing $60,000 from her assets between July and August 2016 and depositing it into a payroll account at the bank used to operate the newspaper, court records claim.

It also is alleged that Bassi diverted $74,876 of the woman’s money into his personal checking account at CFS between November 2013 and May 2014. Another $136,473 was stolen from her in July 2016 and deposited into his savings account, the prosecution alleges. Bassi was previously listed as general counsel for CFS, also based in Charleroi.

He also is accused of opening a money market account at a PNC branch in September 2016 with a deposit of $72,429 from the woman’s assets.

Bassi is expected to forfeit $235,515 held in his PNC money market account. The federal government also will seek a judgment against Bassi of at least $269,616 to settle the case, the record shows.

Bassi could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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