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Restitution closes chapter for New Stanton mother

Renatta Signorini
| Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Restitution from a 1992 case was paid off this week by a Sewickley Township man who is facing recent allegations of failing to disclose gas royalties as income when he filed for state welfare benefits.

Court records show that John J. Basista, 50, made a cash payment of $3,136.24 on Tuesday, closing the chapter for the mother of Jeff Peden, 26, who was shot and killed by Basista in 1992.

“I'm pleasantly surprised,” said attorney Dante Bertani, who represented Basista during a contempt hearing earlier this month.

Mary Lou Peden, 78, of New Stanton could not be reached Thursday or Friday about the restitution. She has previously said the money was for her son's funeral and other expenses.

No one responded on Friday to a message left at a number listed for Basista. He previously ordered a reporter to leave his property.

Basista had been paying about $25 monthly in restitution and court costs during the past several years. Sometimes the payments would skip a month or two, court records show.

After paying $50 in cash in December, his next payment was a $75 money order in May. A week after an article ran in the Tribune-Review about the welfare fraud accusations, Basista made a $50 payment.

He paid $50 on the day of his Aug. 19 contempt hearing in the Peden case, which Basista did not attend because of medical reasons, according to his sister. A week later, the case was paid in full, according to court records.

Jeff Peden and Basista worked for the same trucking company when Basista fired the handgun in a garage off Herminie-Lowber Road in Sewickley on May 24, 1992. Peden died the next day in a Pittsburgh hospital.

Basista claimed he shot Peden in self-defense.

Judge Gary Caruso, who is now retired, found Basista guilty of voluntary manslaughter during a nonjury trial in 1993, according to court records. He was sentenced to serve five to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay $7,000 in restitution.

Basista was charged in July with failing to disclose $206,346.29 in gas royalties when he filed for state welfare benefits last year. He had collected $1,726 in food stamps in 2013, according to court records.

Investigators said Basista was paid the royalties from gas wells about 200 yards behind his secluded home on Brunazzi Road.

An Aug. 28 preliminary hearing before District Judge James Albert was rescheduled to Oct. 2 in the fraud case.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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