Former police officer confesses to having stolen $ 900 thousand from 9/11 aid fund

Former police officer confesses to having stolen $ 900 thousand from 9/11 aid fund

The former police lieutenant-turned-lawyer admitted that he defrauded his fellow officer by embezzling $ 900,000 in compensation for working on the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks.

Gustavo Vila, 62, pleaded guilty to defrauding the US government on Thursday in federal court in White Plains. Vila represented retired colleague John Ferreira in a compensation suit from 2012 to 2019, despite his legal license revoked in 2015.

The man filled out paperwork stating that any compensation for the client would be transferred to his own bank account — and embezzled payments from the 9/11 compensation fund for the 59-year-old Ferreira.

After John received $ 1,030,622 in 2016, Vila «lied for over three years that the money had not yet been paid by the Foundation,» Acting US Attorney Audrey Strauss said.

Vila spent part of the sum, paying taxes and giving it to his then wife and their son. He donated 10% of the amount received to Ferreira: only $ 100,000 of the amount he should have received after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. The former police officer waited in vain for his money. And in February of this year, I learned that he had been deceived by a former colleague and a man with whom he had been friends for 20 years.

“I trusted Gus, we knew each other for so long. — said Ferreira, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005 — We broke bread together. I completely trusted him . And then delay after delay and a lie. «

After the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Ferreira, the father of two girls, worked for months to rebuild Ground Zero. The police hero underwent endless courses of treatment: several operations and chemotherapy, stem cell transplantation, radiation. Ferreira says that despite years of friendship, the defendant never apologized for his betrayal.

“I did it deliberately. I knew it was a crime. I knew it was illegal and I knew what I was doing. I had no excuse, ”a former NYPD lieutenant told Judge Vincent L. Bricchetti.

The judge will deliver the verdict on February 5. Vila can wait 10 years in prison. However, the prosecutor's office and the defense agreed on a sentence of 41 to 51 months, as part of the plea bargain.