Today’s news:

Fake fireman bilked Whitestone woman: DA

“I met him at Shea Stadium the first game back after the World Trade Center,” said a 31-year-old Whitestone woman who wished to remain nameless.

By Alexander Dworkowitz

She trusted him.

“I met him at Shea Stadium the first game back after the World Trade Center,” said a 31-year-old Whitestone woman who wished to remain nameless.

“All the people from the police and Fire Department were in the picnic area. He came off to be this really, nice, nice guy. Just being at the game and sitting with all those policeman and fireman. It was the most amazing feeling to be around them. You feel you’re safe.”

The woman described her first encounter with a man who called himself Jerod Dawson. According to the woman, Dawson told her he was a volunteer firefighter from Wisconsin who came to New York to help with the cleanup and rescue effort at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Jerome Brandl, 34, the real identity of Dawson, was arrested on Oct. 30 in Hermitage, Pa. while driving an allegedly stolen 1999 Mercedes Benz, the Queens district attorney said.

A complaint issued by the DA charges Brandl with grand larceny, scheme to defraud, and criminal impersonation for allegedly posing as a volunteer firefighter and scamming both the New York Fire Department and city residents out of items ranging from credit cards to free Mets tickets as well as food and lodging.

The DA’s office is seeking Brandl’s extradition from Pennsylvania. If convicted, Brandl faces a prison term of up to 15 years.

According to the complaint, Brandl stayed at the Engine Co. 39 firehouse on East 67th Street in Manhattan from Sept. 18 to Sept. 25. He was given room and board as well as catered meals donated for World Trade Center rescuers and allegedly masqueraded as a volunteer firefighter and traveled with firefighters to Ground Zero, the complaint said.

The DA contends that Brandl stole from the woman in Whitestone.

At the end of the Sept. 21 game at Shea Stadium, the 31-year-old Mets fan said Brandl asked for her phone number, and she gave it to him.

The very next day, Brandl called her for a date, she said.

“We dated that week,” she said. “He came by my home with two dozen roses, the whole nine yards.

“He told me the story that he lost his wallet and had no money, and asked if I could lend him some money. His exact words were: ‘Whatever you loan me, I’ll give you double back.’”

The woman said she lent him $500.

“I guess I felt sorry for him. I thought, gee, you came from out of state and lost your wallet.”

The two saw each other nearly every night for almost a week, said the woman.

But as the week progressed, the 31-year-old grew annoyed with Brandl.

“He was very pushy,” she said. “He was just too much, and even he admitted it at times, talking about having a future together.”

On Friday, Sept. 28, one week after she had met Brandl, the woman said she attempted to withdraw money from her account at the bank where she works only to discover her ATM card was missing and $885 withdrawn from her account.

“All I did was cry. I was left with $4 in my account.”

According to the Whitestone woman, Brandl called her at work one more time, but she refused to speak to him.

After filing a report with the police, the woman returned home to find her video camera and cell phone also gone, she said.

The woman, however, said she had written down the license plate number on Brandl’s Mercedes because of a “gut feeling.” The police eventually used that number to help track Brandl down.

The woman, who said she struggles to make ends meet, still cannot believe what happened to her.

“You try to be kind to someone, especially at a time like this. Everyone was feeling pain and sorrow. Just the thought of it ... I wouldn’t even use the words human being to describe him.”

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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