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Man who deceived FDNY, boro woman pleads guilty

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The con artist who posed as a volunteer firefighter and scammed both the city and a Whitestone woman pleaded guilty to fraud last week, the Queens district attorney said.

Jerome Brandl, 34, pleaded guilty to scheming to defraud in the first degree on Jan. 23. State Supreme Court Justice Pauline Mullings is expected to sentence Brandl on March 4 to one to three years in prison.

“The defendant’s guilty plea and promised state prison sentence are more than appropriate,” said Brown.

With firefighters stepping into the role of New York City heroes in the days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Brandl pretended to be one of them in order to reap the benefits that were rewarded upon them, he admitted.

According to the complaint, Brandl, who gave his name as Jerod Dawson, arrived at Engine Co. 39 at East 67th Street in Manhattan on Sept. 18, and told the men at the house he was a volunteer firefighter from Wisconsin. Brandl traveled with firefighters to the recovery and clean-up effort at Ground Zero, answered emergency calls, lived at the house for a week, and took in a free Mets game at Shea Stadium, said the complaint.

It was at that Mets game, the first game played at Shea Stadium after Sept. 11, that Brandl met Lori, a 31-year-old woman from Whitestone.

“He came off to be this really nice, nice guy,” said Lori. “Just being at the game and sitting with all those policemen and firemen ... it was the last thing on my mind that a con man was sitting in front of me.”

After the game, Brandl and Lori started dating, she said.

But on Sept. 28, Lori found her ATM card missing. When she went to the bank, she discovered $885 had been withdrawn from her account.

When she returned home that evening, Lori found her cell phone and video camera were also missing, she said.

Brandl was nowhere to be found.

But on a “gut feeling,” Lori had written down the license plate number of the BMW Brandl had been driving.

On Oct. 30, police found the car, which was allegedly stolen, and arrested Brandl in Hermitage, Pa. after he had attended a Pittsburgh football game at which firefighters were honored, Brown said.

Authorities still have not determined where Brandl lives.

While Brown called the sentence “appropriate,” Lori said she thought Brandl deserved a harsher sentence.

“I was pretty disappointed, to be perfectly honest,” Lori said when she learned of the plea bargain. “I’m hoping that the other states that are involved [in Brandl’s prosecution] step up to the plate and extradite him after he serves.”

Nevertheless, some good has come out of the case for Lori. Firefighters at Springfield Gardens’ Engine Co. 311 and Ladder Company 158 heard about Lori’s ordeal in a TimesLedger news story. Two days before Christmas, Firefighter Kenny Donovan and Detective Thomas Loberto of the 109th Precinct presented a card and an $800 check to Lori on behalf of the Fire Department.

“It was wonderful,” said Lori. “It made for a wonderful Christmas.”

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

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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