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Former Georgia Bankers Association accountant sentenced to two years in prison

Gino Lassiter has been sentenced to prison for embezzling approximately $700,000 from the Georgia Bankers Association (“GBA”) and Georgia Bankers Association Trust (“GBA Trust”) between 2014 and 2021.

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“Professionals, like Lassiter, who exploit their positions of trust to steal from their employers cause financial harm as well as institutional damage to the organizations they commit to serve,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan.  “It is regrettable that Lassiter’s previous conviction for fraud did not deter him from engaging in further criminal conduct. But thanks to an investigation by the Department of Labor he has been held accountable and will return to prison.”

“The extent of this fraudulent scheme represents the lengths to which these individuals went to harm hard-working employees who depend on benefits they have rightfully earned,” explained Employee Benefits Security Administration Acting Regional Director Crystal Coleman in Atlanta. “This type of fraud creates great public mistrust, hurts participants who depend on their essential benefits and the employers who provide their coverage, and increases healthcare costs for all of us.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The GBA is a trade and professional organization headquartered in Atlanta that represents the interests of banks and thrift organizations in Georgia. The GBA’s membership includes virtually every FDIC-insured institution doing business in the state. The GBA Trust is an ERISA-covered multiple employer welfare arrangement (or “MEWA”). As a MEWA, the GBA Trust offered a variety of insurance plans for the employees of the GBA’s members.

Lassiter, who had been previously convicted for federal bank fraud in the mid-1990s, served as the GBA’s accountant from May 1998 to March 2021. For approximately seven years, Lassiter embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the GBA and GBA Trust by using a GBA-issued credit card to make improper and unauthorized purchases. As the GBA’s accountant, Lassiter was able to conceal his embezzlement in a variety of ways, including by making fictious entries, misrepresenting the nature of payments, and overstating the number of payments in the GBA’s general ledger.

For example, Lassiter would record in the ledger overinflated payments that supposedly reflected other employees’ legitimate credit card expenditures. In actuality, the amount would be the exact same amount that Lassiter embezzled over a given period. Lassiter was also able to conceal his scheme by overinflating invoices that GBA issued to the GBA Trust. This was possible because the GBA was responsible for paying off the credit card expenses of the GBA Trust’s employees. The GBA Trust would in turn reimburse the GBA for these expenses. Lassiter inflated these invoices by the amount of his fraudulent credit card purchases.

Gino Lassiter, 58, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor M. Ross to two years in prison, to be followed by one year of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $450,148.10. On July 12, 2023, Lassiter pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement from an employee benefit plan.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex R. Sistla prosecuted the case.

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