Firefighter charged in fake 911 call

December 11, 2008 8:31:18 PM PST
A New York City firefighter was arrested Thursday, accused of making a fake 911 call.Nicholas Vrettos is charged with reporting a false emergency to 911 on December 4. Authorities say the call was placed shortly after Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta announced partial night closing of fire units at four firehouses, including Ladder Co. 53 on Schofield Street, City Island, Bronx, where Vrettos works.

The investigation revealed that additional false alarms were made within a short period on that date. The investigation is ongoing and may lead to additional arrests and charges.

"Calling in a false alarm to 911 is not the way to protest a budget cut that prompted a partial closure," DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said. "It triggers the FDNY to mobilize vehicles and personnel to a location based on a fictitious emergency. It is inherently dangerous when emergency vehicles go on a run to an emergency, and a fake emergency diverts those vehicles and makes them unavailable to people who need actual assistance."

The 30-year-old Vrettos is charged with first-degree falsely reporting an incident, a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison Vrettos has been employed by the FDNY since 2002 and his current annual earnings total approximately $85,000.

"It defies belief that anyone, much less a firefighter, would report a nonexistent emergency at a school as alleged in this case," Hearn said. "The timing of the calls suggests a deliberate attempt to tax the Fire Department's ability to respond. Now caught by this investigation, those responsible are facing swift and firm justice."

According to the criminal complaint, Vrettos called 911 at about 11:24 a.m. on December 4, and falsely reported that there was a fire in the cafeteria of a school at 200 City Island Avenue in City Island. The school was in session at the time of the call.

Ladder 53 in City Island responded to the call and did not find any remnants of a fire. The FDNY determined the call was a "malicious false alarm."

The investigation found that the call was made from the location of the auto body shop that Vrettos operates on City Island.

"Malicious false alarms can delay firefighters' response to real emergencies, putting real victims at risk of more serious injury or even death," Scoppetta said. "It is especially unforgivable when a member of our own department engages in this criminal activity. Anyone who shows such blatant disregard for our firefighters' time and the safety of the public should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Vrettos was arraigned and released on his own recognizance.

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