A former police lieutenant-turned-lawyer was sentenced Monday in White Plains federal court to 51 months in prison for stealing $900,000 that was due to a fellow officer who worked at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, prosecutors said.
Gustavo Vila, who has been disbarred from practicing law amid the scandal, pleaded guilty in October to cheating the U.S. government by failing to pass along proceeds of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund that were owed to John Ferreyra, 59, who was an NYPD officer at the time of the terror attack nearly 20 years ago.
Prosecutors said the 62-year-old Vila paid his own taxes and gave money to his then-wife and their son while lying to Ferreyra about the fate of more than $1 million Ferreyra was awarded from the fund in 2016.
“I knowingly did it. I knew it was a crime. I knew it was illegal and I was aware of what I was doing. I had no excuse for it,” the former NYPD lieutenant told Judge Vincent L. Briccetti during his guilty plea.
Ferreyra received only $100,000 of the money he was awarded after his 2005 cancer diagnosis. He had worked at the toxic trade center site for months after the attacks.
Vila told the judge that as Ferreyra’s lawyer, he was entitled to take a 10 percent fee from the $1,030,000 award. In addition to the 51-month prison term, Vila was sentenced Monday to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $922,559.84. He also must pay $867,879.76 in restitution to Ferreyra.
“Gustavo Vila stole money awarded by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to his client, an NYPD officer and 9/11 first responder. Further, Vila lied to his client for more than three years, telling him that the stolen money had yet to be released by the Fund," Audrey Strauss, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Monday. "Now Gustavo Vila has been sentenced to prison for his betrayal.”