Shore Pair Suspected of 9/11 Charity Fraud Indicted
The two shore men suspected of pocketing more than $50,000 under the guise of donations to 9/11 victim families now face trial, following an indictment by a New Jersey grand jury.
Thomas Scalgione, 41, of Manahawkin, and Mark Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls, are charged with conspiracy and theft by deception, third-degree charges that carry penalties of three to five years if convicted at trial. Niemczyk is also charged with failure to file a New Jersey income tax return in 2011.
Prosecutors claim that he failed to report $55,000 won at the Borgata in Atlantic City. His Social Security payments are tax-exempt, says Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, but the winnings are not.
The charges originate in a probe by the state Division of Criminal Justice Financial and Computer Crimes Bureau. The pair allegedly traveled to 9/11 memorial events in a pickup truck emblazoned with the image of the World Trade Center and the identities of police and firefighters who died as a result of the attacks, collecting donations through T-shirt sales.
According to DCA, they weren't registered as a charitable organization, as required under state law. Investigators contend that they paid between $3.00 and $6.90 per shirt to each vendor, and sold them for $20 each, while also collecting cash donations in a jug that they carried from site to site.
The state Division of Consumer Affairs won a civil action against the pair in November, requiring them to pay more than $200,000 including the sum of donations, civil penalties and investigative costs. The judgment bars them from charitable work in New Jersey.
Investigators say that they embroidered the deception by claiming to be father-and-son firefighters who were stationed near the Twin Towers during the attacks. Niemczyk, according to their findings, also claimed to be a Navy SEAL with three tours of Vietnam.