Florida man sentenced to prison for embezzling Georgia bankers group

Gino Lassiter had served a federal prison term for a similar swindle in the 1990s
Gino Lassiter was sentenced to two years in federal prison for embezzling about $700,000 from the Georgia Bankers Association and the association's trust. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Gino Lassiter was sentenced to two years in federal prison for embezzling about $700,000 from the Georgia Bankers Association and the association's trust. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A Florida man has been sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling $700,000 from the Georgia Bankers Association and a trust linked to the organization, several decades after a previous conviction for a similar crime, according to federal authorities.

Gino Lassiter, 58, whose home is in St. Petersburg, Florida, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eleanor M. Ross to the two-year term, to be followed by one year of supervised release, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Lassiter was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $450,148.10.

“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 Buchanan in a statement.

Lassiter, who had been the accountant for the Georgia Bankers Association until March 2021, used a legitimate credit card issued by the group “to make improper and unauthorized purchases,” Buchanan said. Lassiter then concealed his actions “by making fictious entries, misrepresenting the nature of payments, and overstating the number of payments in the GBA’s general ledger,” Buchanan said.

He worked for the association for more than two decades as an accountant, but his illicit actions were carried out over the course of his final seven years with the group.

Lassiter had been convicted of federal bank fraud in the 1990s and had served prison time for that offense, Buchanan said. “It is regrettable that Lassiter’s previous conviction for fraud did not deter him from engaging in further criminal conduct.”

The investigation into the crime was conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The bankers group, which has headquarters in Atlanta, has 169 members, including virtually all federally insured lending institutions. In a statement, Joe Brannen, chief executive of the Georgia Bankers Association, thanked the prosecutors.

“That money was intended to support the health and wellness of member institution employees and their families and other programs we offer,” Brannen said.

The judge imposed the maximum jail time for Lassiter under federal guidelines, he said. “In addition to serving as severe punishment for his unlawful acts, a full jail term sends an important message to others who steal from those they serve that they’ll be caught and will pay a heavy price for their bad choices.”

Brannan said the regular background check of new employees turned up no problems in Lassiter’s past. The association was not aware of Lassiter’s previous conviction, he said, until “the day before the sentencing hearing, when I read it in the U.S. Attorney’s filing.”