Morrone admits to stealing $100,000, but avoids jail time

Joseph Morrone

Joseph Morrone

BY SAM SPOKONY | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEB. 28, 2014  |  Joseph Morrone, a former Southbridge Towers board president, pleaded guilty Feb. 28 to felony grand larceny after stealing $109,000 in Social Security disability benefits, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

He will be forced to pay back all of the stolen money, and will do five years of probation and 200 hours of community service, a D.A. spokesperson told Downtown Express.

Morrone, 60, was the Southbridge president for several years, starting in the late-’90s, and still lives at the middle income complex. He was spotted outside the State Supreme Court building on Centre St. minutes after entering his guilty plea, but declined to comment.

City prosecutors first indicted Morrone on Jan. 7, alongside more than 100 other defendants, after an investigation showed that he received the disability benefits between October 2009 and June 2013 by fraudulently claiming to suffer from psychological illnesses.

He was originally charged with second degree grand larceny and fourth degree criminal facilitation — which collectively could have put him in prison for up to 16 years if convicted — but prosecutors cut him a deal that allowed him to plead guilty to third degree grand larceny, with no jail time.

A month ago, Morrone’s attorney, Vincent Licata, told this newspaper that he believed he could prove that his client had suffered from legitimate, “documented” illnesses that qualified him for the disability benefits. He also turned down an initial plea deal offered by the D.A. on Feb. 7, according to an attorney representing one of his co-defendants.

But that optimism apparently did not last, and apparently for good reason. A source close to the situation told Downtown Express that some defense attorneys involved in this case originally believed they could prove their clients’ innocence by showing that they have physical disabilities, but have since realized that the rigid guidelines for psychologically based Social Security benefits will prevent them from doing so.

A few days after Morrone’s guilty plea, Licata said his client had no malicious intent, but that he instead had gotten “caught up” in the disability fraud scheme due to a belief that its allege ringleaders were legitimate. In a phone interview, the attorney also said the  quick plea deal showed that the D.A. thought Morrone was “at the bottom of the totem pole….

“In the end, [Morrone’s] signature was on the papers, so he had to be held accountable, and he was,” Licata told Downtown Express. “Mr. Morrone accepted full responsibility for his actions, and he demonstrated that by pleading guilty.”

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6 Responses to Morrone admits to stealing $100,000, but avoids jail time

  1. Give it a rest. With all the larger issues & concerns happening in our neighborhood, this writer continues to sensationalize this case. Until Mr. Morrone agrees to speak with you personally, keep your newspaper away from the tabloid look. By the way, if you decide to go back to more meaningful articles & wish to include Mr. Morrones name, sensationalize all of his hard work & efforts towards the community & its members.

  2. This is not the first time Morrone has commited fraud. He secured a large settlement from the garage at Southbridge while he was president. He also had workers fired who spoke out about his

    false claims.

    • Soutbridge Sufferah

      Agreed, this dude lorded over Southbridge like it was his personal fiefdom. Hopefully this will stop the rot of nepotism and palm-greasing going on though it may only slow it down some…

  3. Southbridge resident

    This should not be up for public debate. The law has spoken. As far as politics goes at Southbridge just take a look around and see what has been running the show for the last few years. Thiefs are not quite the word for it. $5000 here and $5000 there to "consultants" for every little thing, and then they are gone, disappear and you never see them again. The checks are written and who are these "consultants" and where to they come from in the first place? There are many crooks and thieves running the show. Open up your eyes Southbridge or you will be paying the price when you go private and pay what every other coop in NYC is paying. Why would YOU be different?

  4. Before you make comment you don't have the facts about . Make sure you get your facts right and not hide behind a fake name and making accusations that are not true. Considering you dont know what the hell you talking about . It is so sad when people have to hide behind a computer screen cause they are not man enough to say what they have out loud in public .

  5. Truthseeker, I am assuming that is your real name given your above commentary, according to public information the facts are as follows: Morrone pleaded guilty to grand larceny, a felony conviction, because of faking a mental illness to receive SS benefits earmarked for 911 victims that he was NOT entitled to. In addition the Lawyers who advised him how to do this were given a kickback fee which amounted to a portion of those benefits received. Not an accusation, just facts.

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