- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A New Jersey painter was arrested last week on charges that he pulled off what prosecutors say is the biggest fraud from a September 11 compensation fund: more than $1 million.

The government said Mario Mastellone, 39, ripped off the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 by claiming he was permanently disabled by injuries he suffered on September 11, 2001, and had not worked since the terrorist attacks.

Prosecutors said he lied to a Justice Department agent investigating his case and lied to a hearing officer evaluating his claim for compensation. An indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan said he fraudulently obtained $1.07 million.

Mr. Mastellone was quoted in the Asbury Park Press in April 2003 as saying he was treated for smoke inhalation on September 11 but did not know that he hurt his back, his left arm and his shoulder until he visited a doctor days later. He also told the newspaper that his emotional pain was far worse than his physical pain.

The government has asked the court to order Mr. Mastellone, of East Windsor, N.J., to forfeit more than $1 million. He was released on $600,000 bail.

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