Ex-NYPD lieutenant-turned-lawyer admits to stealing $900,000 from cancer-stricken former cop's 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund payout

 A former police lieutenant-turned-lawyer on Thursday admitted cheating a fellow cop out of $900,000 he was due after working at the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center site following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Gustavo Vila, 62, pleaded guilty Thursday in White Plains federal court 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 a New York Police Department officer when the attacks occurred.

Prosecutors said Vila paid his own taxes and gave money to his then-wife and their son while lying to Ferreyra about the fate of over $1 million Ferreyra was awarded from the fund in 2016.

Gustavo Vila, 62, a former NYPD lieutenant-turned-lawyer, admitted in federal court Thursday to stealing $900,000 due to his former friend and client John Ferreyra for working the wreckage of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Gustavo Vila, 62, a former NYPD lieutenant-turned-lawyer, admitted in federal court Thursday to stealing $900,000 due to his former friend and client John Ferreyra for working the wreckage of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Retired NYPD officer John Ferreyra, 59, shown here with former President George W. Bush, worked the rubble at the Ground Zero site for months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He later battled cancer and learned only this year that his former friend and and lawyer had scammed him of $900,000 owed to him

Retired NYPD officer John Ferreyra, 59, shown here with former President George W. Bush, worked the rubble at the Ground Zero site for months following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He later battled cancer and learned only this year that his former friend and and lawyer had scammed him of $900,000 owed to him

'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.

Shortly after receiving Ferreyra's payout in his law firm's bank account, Vila spent $579,000, according to the Rockland/Westchester Journal News. He sent $285,000 to his then-wife, $87,000 to a law firm, and $16,429 to the U.S. Treasury for his 2015 federal taxes. 

Ferreyra received only $100,000 of the money he was awarded after his 2005 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

He had worked at the toxic trade center site for months after the attacks.

The former officer underwent chemotherapy, radiation, multiple surgeries, a stem-cell transplant, and radiation, reported the Daily News.

'The trust I had in Gus, we knew each other so long,' Ferreyra said, according to the Daily News. 'We broke bread together. I had absolute trust in him... And then delay after delay, and lies.'   

Ferreyra outside federal court in White Plains, N.Y., Thursday, where his former friend and lawyer Gustavo Vila admitted to scamming $900,000 from the cancer survivor's 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund payout and forwarding him just $100,000

Ferreyra outside federal court in White Plains, N.Y., Thursday, where his former friend and lawyer Gustavo Vila admitted to scamming $900,000 from the cancer survivor's 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund payout and forwarding him just $100,000

Ferreyra's current lawyer said the former NYPD cop 'almost died' of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Ferryra underwent chemotherapy, radiation, a stem-cell transplant and several surgeries

Ferreyra's current lawyer said the former NYPD cop 'almost died' of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Ferryra underwent chemotherapy, radiation, a stem-cell transplant and several surgeries

Vila filed papers for Ferreyra in 2013, according to court documents. The retired NYPD officer learned only in February that his former lieutenant friend had scammed him of 90 percent of his payout, reported the Daily News.

Vila told the judge that as Ferreyra's lawyer, he was entitled to take a 10 percent fee from the $1,030,000 award. Vila has since been disbarred.

'This guy is a common thief,' said Ferreyra's current lawyer Michael Barash, who handled his case pro bono, according to the Daily News. 

'This was blood money. [Ferreyra] almost died. What he went through, no one should go through.' 


Barash said the New York Lawyers Fund granted $400,000 to Ferreyra, a father of two daughters. 

Vila remains free on bail in advance of his sentencing, set for February 5. 

The charge carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison, but a plea deal Vila reached with prosecutors prevents him from appealing any sentence less than four years and three months in prison.

Ferreyra, shown here with former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, was granted $400,000 by the New York Lawyers Fund after his former lawyer's scam was revealed

Ferreyra, shown here with former New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, was granted $400,000 by the New York Lawyers Fund after his former lawyer's scam was revealed

Ex-NYPD lieutenant-turned-lawyer admits to stealing $900,000 from cancer-stricken former cop's 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund payout Ex-NYPD lieutenant-turned-lawyer admits to stealing $900,000 from cancer-stricken former cop's 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund payout Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 04:37 Rating: 5

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