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Fake firefighter guilty, gets 1 to 3 yrs in prison

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The phony firefighter who scammed the city and a Whitestone woman in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11 was sentenced to one to three years in prison Monday.

State Supreme Court Judge Dorothy Chin-Brandt imposed the sentence on Jerome Brandl, 34, in her Kew Gardens courtroom.

Brandl had pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud and attempted criminal possession of stolen property Jan. 23. Brandl had earlier reached a plea bargain agreement with Judge Pauline A. Mullings.

He had pretended to be a volunteer firefighter from Wisconsin in the weeks after the tragedy of Sept. 11. At a time when firefighters were honored for their heroism, Brandl used his fake identity to obtain benefits he was not entitled to, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The DA had charged Brandl with scheme to defraud, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property and criminal impersonation, with Brandl potentially facing 15 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

“To come to New York City only days after the worst disaster this nation has ever experienced, pose as a rescuer and steal from a city which was still in shock was despicable, loathsome and vile,” said Brown.

On Sept. 18, Brandl, using the name Jerod Dawson, arrived at Engine Co. 39 on East 67th Street in Manhattan. Posing as a volunteer from Milwaukee, Brandl enjoyed room and board as well as catered meals while he responded to emergency calls with other firefighters, the DA said.

On his third day in the city, Brandl was given free admission to the first Mets game held at Shea Stadium since the Sept. 11 attacks had halted the baseball season. It was there that Lori, a 31-year-old woman from Whitestone, said she met Brandl.

Lori said she began dating Brandl after the game. But a week later on Sept. 28 Brandl mysteriously disappeared, and Lori said she found her ATM card missing and $880 taken from her bank account. Lori also alleged that Brandl had run away with $500 that she had loaned him.

But on a hunch, Lori decided to write down the license plate number of Brandl’s 1999 Mercedes Benz.

On Oct. 30, police in Hermitage, Pa., found the car, which was allegedly stolen according to the district attorney. The police apprehended Brandl just after he attended a Monday Night Football game in Pittsburgh that honored firefighters, Brown said.

Detective Tom Luberto of the 109th Precinct, which covers Whitestone, was one of the police officers who arrested Brandl.

Luberto said is detective squad had found evidence that indicated that Brandl had driven all the way to California, where he also stayed with firefighters.

“He stayed with some guys in San Francisco," said Luberto.

While Brown called the sentence “more than appropriate,” Lori said she thought Brandl deserved more jail time.

“I was pretty disappointed, to be perfectly honest,” said Lori when she learned of the plea bargain.

Nevertheless, Brandl may face additional jail time. He is wanted for crimes in other states, the DA said.

“Whatever additional punishment comes his way will, in my view, be richly deserved,” said Brown.

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

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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