- Under Cover
- Special Editorial
- In Pictures
BY SAM SPOKONY | (ORIGINALLY POSTED JAN. 8, 2014) A former Southbridge Towers president is one of 106 people accused of fraudulently collecting disability benefits as part of a massive criminal scheme.
Joseph Morrone, 60, who still lives in the middle income co-op, was listed in the indictment announced on Jan. 7 by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.
Prosecutors say he and the others collectively stole millions of dollars from the U.S. Social Security Administration by falsely claiming to have mental and emotional illnesses.
Between October 2009 and June 2013, Morrone received around $109,000 in disability benefits while claiming he suffered from psychological problems that caused him to fear large crowds, according to the D.A.’s indictment.
Morrone was president of Southbridge’s board of directors in the late-1990s and early-2000s, according to one longtime resident of the Seaport complex who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Morrone currently serves as president of Southbridge’s Adult and Senior Citizens Activities Center.
“He has very deep roots in the community, and he’s very well-known around the neighborhood,” the source said, adding that numerous members of Morrone’s family also currently live at Southbridge.
Investigators said they were able to identify Morrone as one of the alleged Social Security defrauders after finding footage of a recent interview he gave to a PIX 11 news reporter while serving canoli at the San Gennaro street festival in Little Italy.
His enthusiastic presence at the large festival apparently made investigators think that he did not, in fact, suffer from psychological problems that caused him to fear large crowds, according to the indictment.
According to past emails and letters to the editor Morrone sent to Downtown Express, he was also a coach for children playing in the
Downtown Football League during its 2012 season — another fact that casts doubt on his claims of severe mental infirmity between 2009 and 2013.
Morrone has officially been charged with second degree grand larceny and fourth degree criminal facilitation, according to the D.A.’s indictment.
The grand larceny charge is a Class C felony, which — if Morrone were to be convicted — carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. The criminal facilitation charge is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to one year in prison.
When he was reached by phone and asked to comment on the indictment, Morrone stopped speaking and hung up.