Spitzer, Morgenthau And Kelly Announce Arrests In World Trade Center Charities Fraud Scams
State Attorney General Spitzer today announced the arrests of five people who fraudulently attempted to obtain expedited death certificates for relatives who they claimed died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. In fact, none of the alleged deceased died in the Twin Towers or were even in the vicinity of the World Trade Center on that day. The purpose of obtaining the death certificates was to defraud charities, government agencies and/or insurance companies of monies intended for the loved ones of the victims killed in the terrorist attacks.
"The horrific attacks of September 11th led to an unprecedented outpouring of charitable donations by the American people," Spitzer said. "Yet, there were those who unlawfully attempted to enrich themselves by taking advantage of the tragedy that befell our city. My office will continue to work with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the New York Police Department and other law enforcement agencies to investigate and vigorously prosecute individuals who seek to profit from the attacks on our city and nation."
Spitzer made the announcement at a joint news conference with Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The following is a list of the defendants and the charges in the cases brought by the Attorney General's office:
- Luz Morales-Cotto, 52 of Plaza Carolina Station, Puerto Rico was arrested in Puerto Rico on March 18 and faces an extradition hearing on March 21. The charges were filed after Cotto collected $15,250 from the Red Cross, $1,500 from Safe Horizons and $5,375 from Social Security in survivor's benefits. The complaint alleges that the defendant filed for an expedited death certificate claiming that her daughter had a job interview at the WTC on September 11, and was among the missing. Investigators found that the daughter is alive and is currently living in Puerto Rico. The defendant was charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a D felony; Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, an E Felony; Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, an E Felony and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, an E Felony.
- Gheri Sweeting, 57, of Jamaica, Queens was charged after filing for an expedited death certificate for her brother Raymond Sweeting. She claimed that her brother had died in the WTC on September 11th. It was later determined that Raymond Sweeting is alive. The defendant received $2,500 from Safe Horizons and $13,881 from the American Red Cross. The charges against Sweeting include: Grand Larceny in Third Degree. a D Felony; Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony; Falsifying Business Records in the Second Degree and Perjury in the Third Degree.
- Pablo Santiago, 66, of 801 West Park Avenue, Lindenwold, NJ. The defendant received $14,300 from the American Red Cross and he filed for an expedited death certificate, claiming that his nephew, Edgardo Amon died on September 11th. The defendant also submitted a false claim to Met Life for life insurance proceeds. The charges include: Insurance Fraud in the Second Degree, a C Felony: Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a D Felony; Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, an E Felony and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, E Felony.
- Sashe, 55, of 21 Odell Avenue, Yonkers, NY was charged for filing for an expedited death certificate alleging that his estranged ex-wife, Michele LaCrete Sashe, died in the WTC attacks. The defendant's ex-wife is alive and was not in New York City on September 11, 2001. Defendant collected Social Security survivor's benefits on behalf of two of his children. The charges include: Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, an E Felony; four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, an E Felony; four counts of Offering a False Instrument For Filing in the First Degree, an E Felony; two counts of Perjury in the Second Degree, an E Felony and two counts of Making an Apparently False Sworn Statement in the First Degree, an E Felony.
- Janet Goodwin, 48, of 320 Post Avenue, in Westbury, NY were charged after she filed for an expedited death certificate for the father of Goodwin's children, Giovanni Davi, claiming that he had died in the WTC attacks. Davi was living in Italy, on September 11, 2001. The charges include: Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, an E Felony; Perjury in the Second Degree, an E Felony; Making an Apparently Sworn False Statement in the First Degree, an E Felony; Falsifying Business Records in Second Degree.
The charges are mere accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.
Spitzer thanked the New York City Police Department, the New York State Police, the State Insurance Department, the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration and the office of the New York City Corporation Counsel for their assistance in the investigation.
The cases are being coordinated by Assistant Attorney General Felice Sontupe of the AG's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau.