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Attorney avoids jail time for hiding assistant’s thefts

A Lee County lawyer will not have to go to prison for trying to help his office assistant avoid prosecution after she stole money from accounts under his control.

Joseph W. Rasnic of Jonesville was sentenced to a year of probation by U.S. District Judge James P. Jones Thursday.

Rasnic, 62, pleaded guilty in January to a federal felony charge with a potential three-year sentence. His sentencing guideline range was 0-6 months.

Rasnic admitted that, after he discovered his assistant had been stealing from his accounts, he failed to cut off her access to the accounts and tried to conceal the extent of her crimes.

Rasnic also acknowledged lying to federal investigators about his personal relationship with the assistant, Mandie Bishop.

Bishop was sentenced to two years in prison for bank fraud.

Rasnic’s sentence included $183,726 in restitution, which he had already paid. He also surrendered his license to practice law, which was revoked in February.

“The theft at issue was committed by Mr. Rasnic’s legal assistant and perpetrated by her primarily to support her and her husband’s drug addictions. It is undisputed that Mr. Rasnic did not commit this theft himself, nor did he benefit financially from it,” wrote Thomas T. Cullen of Roanoke, Rasnic’s lawyer, in a sentencing brief.

The brief was accompanied by 41 letters of support from other lawyers and professionals, local officials and family members, urging leniency. Most of the letters said Rasnic had acknowledged and accepted responsibility for his misdeeds.

“Joe has already suffered immensely for his mistakes in this matter.  We’re very grateful the court took that into consideration and sentenced him to probation,” Cullen said after the sentencing.

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