Morrone’s attorney says disability claim is legit

morrone

BY SAM SPOKONY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JAN. 23, 2014  |  The former Southbridge Towers president who stands accused of stealing more than $100,000 in federal disability benefits will make his next court appearance on Feb. 7, when prosecutors will likely begin revealing their evidence against him.

Joseph Morrone, 60, is currently charged with second degree larceny and fourth degree criminal facilitation — both felonies — and was indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney on Jan. 7. Prosecutors say he received the Social Security disability checks between October 2009 and June 2013 after fraudulently claiming to suffer from psychological illnesses.

Morrone was president of Southbridge’s board of directors in the late-1990s and early-2000s, and currently serves as president of the Southbridge Adult and Senior Citizens Activities Center. He was charged as one of 106 people who were allegedly involved in the bogus disability benefits scheme.

In a Jan. 22 phone interview, Morrone’s lawyer, Vincent Licata, said that his client has, in fact, suffered from legitimate medical conditions.

“Mr. Morrone has had documented illnesses over a 10-year period that made him qualify for Social Security disability benefits,” said Licata, although he added that he has not yet been able to review his client’s full medical records.

“But right now, he hasn’t done anything wrong, and it’s all just allegations,” the lawyer said of the charges against Morrone, which collectively could carry a sentence of more than 15 years in prison if he were convicted on both counts.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan D.A. said that Morrone’s Feb. 7 court date will not be the start of his trial, but will instead serve as a pre-trial hearing.

Licata said that he expects to see at least some of the prosecution’s evidence following that hearing, after which he will be able to begin planning his client’s defense. As of now, Licata said he has only seen the D.A.’s indictment, which does not provide detailed information about Morrone or the D.A.’s specific case against him.

Meanwhile, there is gossip about Morrone and his case brewing within the halls of Southbridge — and some of it may be politically motivated, according to a source at the complex.

Morrone is part of a faction at Southbridge that is against privatization of the middle-income complex, which is currently part of the state’s Mitchell-Lama housing program. For many years, there has been much tension between Southbridge’s pro- and anti-privatization groups, and although Morrone’s charges are unrelated to Southbridge, some residents could be using his alleged criminal activity as an opportunity to attack him as part of that ongoing debate.

“It’s seems pretty clear at this point that [Morrone’s] friends are being supportive of him, but people with political differences are venting against him,” said one longtime Southbridge resident who is familiar with the situation, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Morrone’s brother currently serves on the Southbridge board of directors, but he has not faced any backlash over the case, according to that source.

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5 Responses to Morrone’s attorney says disability claim is legit

  1. Every person is entitled to due process. The facts of this case will speak for themselves. With regard to privatization and the "politics" have nothing to due with how people may feel. It has to with the behaviors and truths that have been exhibited by Joe Morrone in the past and or present. Check into it.

  2. I agree with the poster above me. Politics have nothing to do with peoples opinions related to this case. Sam Spokany
    Who wrote this column shouldn't make the assumption that Marrone may be attacked for political reasons. Just report
    The FACTS.

  3. This crook Morrone collected $110,000 in disability cuz he had PTSD that made him terrified of being in large crowds. I guess cannolis are a miracle cure then, cuz he looked fine at San Gennaro!

  4. Privatization seems to be the ONLY thing on the sick and evil minds of some of the greedy poor people at Southbridge Towers who hope to "make a killing" on their apartments and/or refinance (and who knows how they will ever repay loans?.) While they will walk away on the sale of their apartments with hardly enough to relocate after leaving Southbridge a nice little flip tax of at least 25-33% and pay capital gains taxes, they rear their ugly greedy heads every chance they get. Even during sad stressful times such as this, what the hell does privatization have to do with this?

  5. Amen to K@Southbridge. The issue of privatization raises its ugly face no matter what happens at Southbridge.
    The greedy have no respect for the people living in Southbridge, so naturally they take this troubling concern as
    an opportunity to (once again) bring up privatization.

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