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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Friday, January 30, 2015

Lee County Attorney Pleads Guilty To Federal Felony Charge

Joseph W. Rasnic Admits To Failing To Take Appropriate Action When Made Aware His Assistant Was Stealing Money From Elderly Woman

ABINGDON, VIRGINIA – A Lee County, Virginia, attorney, who failed to take appropriate action after learning his assistant was stealing money from the accounts of an elderly woman for whom he was appointed conservator of accounts, pled guilty today in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Abingdon.

Joseph W. Rasnic, age 62, of Jonesville, Virginia, waived his right to be indicted and pled guilty this afternoon to a one count Information charging him with misprision of felony.

“Mr. Rasnic failed to protect the assets of an elderly woman for whom he had been appointed conservator of accounts and instead protected the criminal activity of his assistant,” Acting United States Attorney Anthony P. Giorno said today. “This is certainly a sad day for everyone involved in this case, including Mr. Rasnic and his family. Nevertheless, we will vigorously prosecute attorneys and others who fail to ensure that money entrusted to them is protected.”

According to evidence presented by Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer, Rasnic operated a law office in Jonesville, Virginia, where Mandie Marie Bishop worked as his secretary and assistant. Rasnic admitted today he became aware Bishop was committing bank fraud by forging signatures to facilitate her theft of money from various bank accounts held by an elderly woman for whom Rasnic had been appointed conservator of accounts. Bishop obtained funds by forging Rasnic’s signature on checks.

Rasnic admitted after becoming aware of Bishop’s thefts he failed to remove her access to the accounts, which allowed her to continue stealing from the victim. In addition, Rasnic withheld information from law enforcement about Bishop’s behavior and actively sought to hide the extent of her criminal activity.

When questioned by agents of the United States Secret Service, Rasnic failed to disclose his knowledge of the full extent of Bishop’s criminal activity and lied about the nature of his personal relationship with Bishop.

In July 2014, Rasnic resigned and was removed as the conservator of the victim’s accounts. Between May 2013 and August 2014, Rasnic paid back $104,990 into the victim’s accounts. As part of the plea agreement, Rasnic was required to pay back all of the money taken by Bishop as well as his guardian and conservator fees and unnecessary expenses caused by the mismanagement of the victim’s accounts. The total amount required to be repaid, including the amount already paid, was $183,726. Rasnic submitted the remaining $78,736 today. Accordingly, the victim will receive full restitution.

Rasnic was released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. At sentencing, scheduled for May 28, 2015, he faces a maximum possible penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Mandie Marie Bishop previously pled guilty to bank fraud charges and, in December 2014, was sentenced to 24 months of federal incarceration. There is no parole in the federal system.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Randy Ramseyer is prosecuting the case for the United States.

Updated April 10, 2015