Monday, May 6, 2013

Two Men Charged In Alleged 9/11 Charity Scam

Two men have been indicted for allegedly operating a bogus 9/11 charity, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today.

Mark Niemczyk and Thomas Scalgione were indicted Friday on third-degree charges of conspiracy and theft by deception. The two men operated a pick-up truck from which they operated a charity that was supposed to raise money for the victims of the 9/11 attacks or related charities. The men allegedly sold t-shirts and collected donation at 9/11 events. The funds they raised -- in excess of $50,000 -- never made it to victims' families or 9/11 charities as promised, according to Chiesa.

“It’s a sad reality that in the wake of a devastating tragedy, when so many want to help, there are always parasites who view the tragedy and the generosity of others as nothing more than the opportunity and the means to turn a crooked profit for themselves,” said Chiesa.

The state alleges that Niemczyk and Scalgione, who registered their operation with the state, took all of their proceeds and deposited it into their personal bank accounts to pay for unrelated expenses. As a result of their alleged fraud, the two men were able to purchase the t-shirts they sold at a discounted rate by telling vendors that the proceeds from their sales would benefit victims' families. One vendor gave discounts totaling $3,312, and another gave discounts totaling $1,378.

Elie Honig, director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, also alleges that the men told other lies in the name of donations. Niemczyk allegedly claimed that he was a Navy SEAL who did three tours of duty in Vietnam, and that he and Scalgione were father-and-son firefighters who were working at a firehouse near the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“Their conduct was outrageous, and we urge any victims who donated money or bought T-shirts from these con artists to contact us,” said Honig.

The charges against Niemczyk and Scaligione stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. The criminal investigation began with a referral from the Division of Consumer Affairs, which in November secured a final consent judgment in a civil action, under which the men must pay a total of more than $200,000, representing disgorgement of donations and payment of civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs. The judgment bars the men from ever working for any charitable organization in New Jersey should they be convicted.

You can read the full indictment on the state of New Jersey's website.

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