On April 19, a federal judge sentenced Gustavo L. Vila to 51 months in prison for stealing a nearly $1 million 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) award from NYPD veteran John Ferreyra, who has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma resulting from his exposure to Ground Zero toxins.
Vila was also ordered to pay $867,870.76 in restitution.
After the 9/11 attacks, John Ferreyra worked 12-hour shifts in Lower Manhattan for two months, assisting in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2005 and has endured multiple surgeries, a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Ferreyra hired his longtime friend Vila, a former police officer who had since become an attorney, to handle his 9/11 VCF claim.
In 2016, the VCF awarded Ferreyra more than $1 million for his pain and suffering and lost income.
But Vila only provided Ferreyra with $100,000, less than 10% of the total award. For the next three years, Vila repeatedly lied to his client, telling him the VCF had reduced awards.
Ferreyra eventually became suspicious and contacted Managing Partner Michael Barasch, who quickly realized Ferreyra had been cheated.
Barasch & McGarry attorneys contacted federal prosecutors, who launched an investigation that ultimately resulted in Vila pleading guilty to fraud.
In addition, Barasch & McGarry applied to the New York State Lawyers Fund for Client Protection, which protects legal consumers from dishonest lawyers, on Ferreyra’s behalf. The fund awarded Ferreyra $400,000 as partial restitution, the maximum amount allowed.
We will continue to fight for the return of John Ferreyra’s full 9/11 VCF award. Meanwhile, his cancer thankfully remains in remission.