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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Newburgh Fire Chief Charged In White Plains Federal Court With Fraudulently Obtaining Retirement Benefits

Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and Thomas P. DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, announced the indictment of MICHAEL J. VATTER, the Chief of the Newburgh Fire Department, charging him with fraudulently obtaining approximately $95,000 in pension benefits by failing to report his return to work in the public sector to the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System.  Under New York State law, a public sector retiree who is receiving a pension and who returns to public service cannot receive both pension payments and a public sector paycheck.  The law permits public sector retirees to earn up to $30,000 per year from public sector employment before their pension benefits are cut off for that year.

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment[1] unsealed today in White Plains federal court:         

VATTER served in the Newburgh Fire Department in various capacities from 1980 until his retirement in May 2000.  Following his retirement, VATTER attended law school and practiced law.  In November 2009, the Indictment charges, VATTER returned to the Newburgh Fire Department as its Chief.  The Indictment further alleges that VATTER failed to report his return to the public sector despite knowing he had a duty under state law to do so.  As a result of this conduct, VATTER obtained $95,106 in pension benefits from the New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System source to which he was not entitled. 

VATTER, 57, of Walkill, New York, is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI, the Office of the New York State Comptroller, the Orange County District Attorney's Office, and the Orange County Sheriff's Office.  

This prosecution is being handled by the Office's White Plains Division.  Assistant U.S. Attorney James McMahon is in charge of the prosecution.

The charge contained in the Indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated January 20, 2016