Kersey man is sentenced to prison for bank fraud

ERIE – A Kersey man has been sentenced to seven months in federal prison on a felony charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.Richard "Rick" Alan Raspatello, 56, of 1418 Million Dollar Highway, Kersey, who pleaded guilty to the charge, also has been ordered to make restitution in the amount of $86,953.14, according to documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Erie.U.S. District Court Judge Sean J. McLaughlin handed down the sentence earlier this month. A federal grand jury indicted Raspatello June 9, 2009. The defendant initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty last November, court records show. He has been free on $5,000 bail.According to court documents, Raspatello will begin his prison term "as notified by the United States marshal." Because the U.S. District Court has recommended that the defendant "be incarcerated as close to Kersey, Pa. as possible," Raspatello is expected to serve his prison term at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI)-McKean in Lafayette Township near Bradford.The court also sentenced Raspatello to "three years supervised release" when he completes his term in federal prison. Court records say "the defendant shall be placed on home detention for a period of six months to commence immediately following his release from imprisonment."  "At the direction of the probation officer, the defendant shall wear an electronic device and shall observe the rules specified by the Probation Department," terms of the "supervised release" show.The court also directed Raspatello to pay "a special assessment of $100." McLaughlin said the court would "waive the fine in this case" because "the defendant does not have the ability to pay a fine."According to court documents, Raspatello has been ordered to make restitution to eight banks and a credit union in the amount of $86,953.14. A total of 15 bank offices have been identified in the fraud case.The victims and the amounts involved in the fraud include: PNC Bank, State College, $3,500; PNC Bank, Waterford, $2,252; PNC Bank, Youngsville, $5,435; Wacopse Federal Credit Union, Warren, $14,300; Kish Bank, State College, $8,325; Citizens Bank (Giant Eagle location), Erie, $4,060; Northwest Savings Bank, Erie, $5,600; Northwest Savings Bank, Corry, $4,300; Hamlin Bank and Trust, Smethport, $11,700; First Summit Bank offices in Altoona (Wal-Mart), Johnstown, Cresson and Portage, $200; Indiana First Bank, Indiana, Pa., $20,505; and Sovereign Bank, Harrisburg, $6,776.14.Joshua Zachary Atwell, 24, of Hatch Run Road, Warren, is the only co-defendant in the case. He also was indicted two years ago on a charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Initially, Atwell pleaded not guilty. He later changed his plea to guilty.McLaughlin earlier this month sentenced Atwell to spend six months at the Renewal, Inc. "community corrections center" in Pittsburgh. After his imprisonment, Atwell will go on supervised release for three years, according to court documents.Atwell has been ordered to make restitution in the amount of $76,677. His restitution will be made jointly with Raspatello. Atwell's total restitution figure was set at less than the $86,953 listed for Raspatello, court documents show.For both Raspatello and Atwell, half of their "prison salary" will go toward the restitution, court records indicate.According to court documents, the defendants faced a maximum of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.The indictment claims that the two men conspired to commit bank fraud from "in and around November 2007 to in and around October 2008." The indictment alleges that the defendants "knowingly" took part in "a scheme" to "defraud" the financial institutions. According to the indictment, Raspatello issued checks from his business-- Richard Raspatello Excavating and Trucking-- to Atwell. Both defendants knew the checks were drawn on a checking account with "insufficient funds," court records show.Before cashing the bad checks, Atwell "would often open a savings and/or checking account" at a financial institution."It was part of the conspiracy that Atwell would then deposit a portion of the Raspatello checks into the newly opened savings and/or checking accounts, knowing there were insufficient funds in the Raspatello checking account to cover the amounts listed on the checks," court documents show."It was further a part of the conspiracy that Atwell would then cash the remaining-- typically much larger portion-- of the Raspatello checks that had not been deposited prior to the banks discovering that the checks were not supported by sufficient funds," court documents explain.The indictment alleges that Atwell kept "a small amount of money" for cashing the checks and returned the remaining portion to Raspatello, court records show.The crime is referred to in court documents as "check kiting," which is defined as an illegal act of taking advantage of the "float" to make use of non-existent funds in a bank account.Pick up a copy of the Thursday, June 30, 2011 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.