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Former Newburgh Fire Chief Faces Up To 20 Years In Prison

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Former Newburgh City Fire Chief Michael Vatter pled guilty to wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining retirement benefits. His plea came Friday in federal district court in White Plains. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in federal prison.

Vatter, 57, of Wallkill, worked in the Newburgh fire department for 20 years until he retired in May 2000 as chief. He then attended law school and practiced law.

In November 2009, he returned to Newburgh as fire chief, but the indictment alleges he failed to report his return to the public sector New York State and Local Police and Fire Retirement System despite knowing he had a duty under state law to do so. As a result, he received over $95,000 in pension benefits that he was not entitled to receive.

Under state law, a public sector retiree who is receiving a pension and who returns to public service cannot receive bo0th pension payments and a public sector paycheck. The law permits public sector retirees to earn up to $30,000 per hear from public sector employment before their pension benefits are cut off for that year.

Vatter “cheated the public he swore to serve by double-dipping, receiving both a public pension and a paycheck at the same time,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara. “Today, he admitted to his fraud, and he will be held accountable for his corruption.”

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