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Jail for Ex-Lawyer Who Stole from Sept. 11 Victims’ Fund

April 19, 2021, 6:40 PM

An ex-lawyer was sentenced to more than four years in prison for stealing about $1 million from the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund.

Gustavo Vila took money awarded by the fund to his client, a New York City police officer, and a Sept. 11 first responder and has been sentenced for “his betrayal,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.

Vila received the maximum jail time under the plea deal he reached with prosecutors. He also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay restitution, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Vila represented John Ferreyra between 2012-19 even though he’d been disbarred for larceny in 2015, according to the statement by prosecutors that said Ferreyra was diagnosed with cancer from work at Ground Zero, the site of the toppled World Trade Center towers.

The fund deposited over $1 million in Vila’s firm bank account in October 2016 as compensation for Ferreyra’s illness, the government said.

Vila was required to turn over the money to his client, less 10% for fees he might seek to claim. The government said he instead kept most of the money and used it to pay taxes and other personal expenses, telling Ferreyra for years that the entire amount hadn’t been released. Vila must pay Ferreyra $867,000 in restitution.

The case is USA v. Vila, S.D.N.Y., No. 7:20-cr-00495, sentencing 4/19/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com

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