The daughter of a slain NYPD cop who was left to raise her younger siblings has been stuck in legal hell for five years over access to her mother’s pension, and time is running out.
Genesis Villella was forced to step in as a primary caregiver when her mother, Miosotis Familia, was killed execution-style while working in the Bronx in 2017.
And a little-known legal loophole has only exacerbated his pain. Children of single-parent police officers who die in the line of duty are not entitled to their parents’ pension for life, unlike the spouses and parents of murdered police officers.
“Since I am raising my brother and sister, dependent on my mother, as their mother, and I will be their mother for the rest of their lives, I think we should receive the lifetime pension in the same way as any other family of a policeman. officer who dies in the line of duty from him,” Villella, now 25, told The Post last week.
Twins Peter and Delilah Vega, 17, can only collect their mother’s pension until they are 23, and under strict warnings. But even now, they must navigate legal hurdles to obtain the benefit, a process Villella called “torture” and involves first seeking approval from the Bronx Probate Court.
“In addition to the daily pain of losing my best friend, my hero, I also have to worry about whether we will have money to pay the bills in a few years,” Villella said through tears.
“Financial pain is added stress. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in five years.”
Familia, a 12-year veteran of the NYPD, was sitting in a police car on July 5, 2017, when a deranged gunman came out of nowhere, approached the car and shot the unsuspecting police officer in the head on East 183rd Street near Morris Avenue. .
The killer, Alexander Bonds, was eventually shot dead by police.
Familia, 48, who was posthumously promoted to detective, had no recipients of her pension benefits, and had only three dependents, her then-20-year-old daughter and her twin sons, who were only 12 at the time.
Villella was forced to drop out of school to make ends meet and raise her younger siblings, while learning to navigate the court process to obtain her mother’s pension.
“It took me four years to finally get my mom’s check direct deposited,” Villella said. “Previously, I had to take the check to court where it was photocopied, and then I had to deposit it in a bank chosen by the judge.
“Originally, the bank opened a [certificate of deposit] instead of a savings account,” he added. “The bank had to correct the error. Also, she each time had to go to court where… my mother worked as a police officer, and also two miles from where she was horribly executed.”
Villella’s pension was cut off in 2020, when he turned 23. Under current law, children can go through the lengthy court process until they turn 18, then are eligible until they turn 23, but only if they meet criteria that include being enrolled in school.
That means Peter and Delilah have just over five years until they are cut.
“When our single officers give their lives in the line of duty, the least we can do as a city is make sure their children are cared for the way they are used to, if not better,” Kathy Vigiano, president of the non-profit organization Survivors of the Shieldhe told The Post.
Founded in 1988, the group provides benefits and support to the families of slain NYPD officers.
“There shouldn’t be a limit at 23 years old,” Vigiano said. “These kids are broken. It may take a few more years to finish college or trade school. We should make life easier for these children, not harder.
“A father is there to help support his son in every step of his life, well into adulthood. These kids have lost that.”
Efforts have been made over the years to try to help the orphaned children of Familia, including by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which gifted them with an apartment in Riverdale, ABC reported.
Some lawmakers in Albany also tried to step forward, to no avail.
Just three weeks after Familia’s death, Queens State Senator José Peralta introduced a bill that proposed to pay the policeman’s children up to $1,000 a month for up to 10 years.
Peralta, however, died the following year and the legislation never moved forward.
Last month, Brooklyn State Assemblyman Peter Abbate introduced a new bill that proposed reinstating Villella’s benefits until her younger siblings are no longer eligible.
The bill was introduced late in the legislative session and failed to obtain the required sponsor from the Senate.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was that there was no Senate sponsor,” Abbate said last week. “It’s taking forever these days to get tax notes out of the city.”
Although grateful, Villella said the bill would only provide a Band-Aid on an unhealed wound.
“It doesn’t address that I am the father who takes care of my mother’s dependents as if they were my own children,” he said. “They weren’t listening to me.”
She said that she wished the city would step up like her mother did.
“In addition to being a loving mother, she was also a loyal and faithful officer who gave her life protecting the city,” she said of her mom. “The city, in turn, should take care of its children.”
Additional reporting by Zach Williams and Craig McCarthy