YORKTOWN, N.Y. – A disbarred Yorktown lawyer is accused of stealing nearly $1 million from a police officer’s 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
Gustavo L. Vila, a 62-year-old Yorktown resident, was arrested on Thursday, Sept. 3, and charged with theft of government funds. He answered to the charge at the White Plains Courthouse.
According to a complaint prepared by Daniel Goldstein, a special agent with the Department of Justice, Vila was disbarred in December 2015 following a felony grand larceny conviction. However, he allegedly continued to represent a retired New York City Police Department officer, who had been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer, as a result of the rescue and recovery work he performed at Ground Zero. The retired officer allegedly hired Vila, whose now-defunct website says he is a former lieutenant commander with the NYPD, to file a claim on his behalf.
On Sept. 13, 2016, $1,030,622.04 was awarded to the retired officer through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund and deposited into an account controlled by Vila, according to the complaint. A month later, Vila allegedly sent the retired officer a check for $103,062.20—about 10 percent of the sum—and kept and spent the remaining $927,559.84.
During a meeting in February 2020 between Vila and the retired officer, the disbarred lawyer allegedly admitted to stealing the money.
“Vila allegedly lied to his client, telling the client for more than three years that the money Vila stole had yet to be released by the fund,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a press release. “Further, Vila lied to his client about his standing, continuing to hold himself out as an attorney even after he had been disbarred.”
Attempts to reach Vila were unsuccessful. Phone numbers associated with his former law firm had been disconnected.