WILIAMSPORT — “Despicable” was the comment of a federal prosecutor about the scheme of a Bradford County man who admitted he befriended an elderly women and then stole approximately $500,000 of her life’s savings.
Alan J. Fassett, 67, Thursday in U.S. Middle District Court pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering.
He could receive up to 30 years in prison. He remains free on personal recognizance pending sentencing.
The victim in the scheme that began in April 2011 was a then 92-year-old woman who lived on the same floor of an Athens apartment building as Fassett’s mother.
He convinced her that a caretaker was stealing and that he would protect her, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Olshfski said.
The scheme was uncovered when the Bradford County Area Agency on Agency received an anonymous letter in 2013, she said.
The woman kept that letter on her nightstand until she died on Sept. 28, 2013, about two months after being told of the thefts, Olshfski said.
Athens police reports state the woman was physically upset when told what had happened and repeatedly asked if she had any money left, the prosecutor said.
Olshfski gave the following summary of the evidence the government had against Fassett:
Once he had the woman’s confidence, he talked her into getting a new car, which he titled in his name so he could drive her to appointments, which he never did.
He obtained power of attorney in November 2012 with a signature state police said did not appear to be hers and used it to sell the woman’s securities without her knowledge.
He placed the $97,567 in proceeds into one of three bank accounts he had convinced her to put his name on to prevent stealing.
Fassett moved $475,000 from her bank accounts into his in a way to make the transactions legal, placed her in a nursing home and diverted her mail to a post office box in his name.
He moved into a house he bought in Athens for $200,000, purchased a $10,000 pickup truck for a friend, paid off thousands of dollars of personal credit card bills and replaced her cell phone with a more elaborate one he used, Olshfski said.
He was aware the woman had a will naming Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre as the lone beneficiary and moved as quickly as he could to liquidate her assets before she died, she said.
Fassett returned $185,397 on one occasion and $9,500 on another in an effort to avoid being charged, Olshfski said.
Prior to the scheme, Fassett had filed for bankruptcy twice, was living in a downstairs apartment in Waverly and driving an old car, she said.
Fassett has agreed to forfeit the house and approximately $35,000 in cash the government has seized from a credit union account and an E*Trade investment account.
Under terms of the plea agreement, 22 other wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft counts are to be dismissed at sentencing.