The state is suing two men, alleging they operated a bogus charity that claimed to collect money for survivors of first responders killed at ground zero following the 9/11 attacks.
Thomas Scalgione, 40, of Stafford Township, and Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls, Monmouth County, allegedly traveled the state in a pickup truck, the names of the dead painted on it, soliciting donations for an unregistered charity, according to a news release from the state Attorney General’s Office and state Department of Community Affairs.
Authorities say the two men used the money — described as “tens of thousands of dollars” — for their own purposes.
The state has petitioned the court to order Niemczyk’s truck impounded and the two men to stop soliciting donations from the public. Ocean County Superior Court will hear the state’s request at 10 a.m. today.
The complaint, which was filed in Ocean County, alleges the two men committed multiple violations of the state’s Charities Registration and Investigation Act. Officials have referred the case to authorities for potential criminal prosecution, in addition to the state’s lawsuit.
A review of the unregistered charity’s financial records showed that donated money was commingled in Niemczyk’s personal bank account, the Attorney General’s Office says.
Alleged donations from the charity also were never received by organizations the men claimed to have sent them to, officials said.
For example, the men allegedly claimed to have donated to the Cain Foundation, but it was determined that the foundation didn’t exist.
Rosemary Cain, the mother of a firefighter who died on Sept. 11, 2001, was never contacted by the men about donations.
In 2005, Scalgione was arrested by Lacey Township police after cashing a check for almost $8,000 that authorities alleged he stole from a bingo jackpot at a Monmouth County church.
Scalgione has been convicted of theft, forgery, fraudulent use of credit cards and possession of an emergency communications receiver during the commission of a crime, the news release states.
In May, a former New York City police officer who had concerns about the legitimacy of the men’s charity filed a complaint with the state Division of Consumer Affairs after seeing the defendants’ pickup truck at a World Trade Center memorial service in Barnegat Township last year.
In August 2011, Scalgione visited Barnegat High School with his pickup truck to deliver a piece of donated steel from the 9/11 attacks. The piece from the World Trade Center’s North Tower is a 9-foot-long, 537-pound steel beam.
That afternoon, Niemczyk’s red pickup truck — dubbed the 9/11 Ground Zero Truck — arrived at the high school, towing the beam on a flatbed. The truck was escorted to the school by police cars, fire engines and motorcycles.
Charles Giles, a 9/11 first responder from Barnegat Township, accompanied Scalgione, who was referred to as the operations coordinator for the Ground Zero Truck, and Niemczyk.
“I did not know they were fraudulent and operating this way. As a matter of fact, because I did have to testify to the DCA, I can’t say much to the media,” Giles said Monday afternoon.
“It is beyond comprehension that anyone would try to profit themselves under the guise of collecting donations to help the surviving family members of the fallen emergency responders,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said.
Scalgione and Niemczyk also allegedly sold T-shirts bearing the logos of the New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department and Port Authority Police Department — which they were not authorized to use — at 9/11 memorial events last year, officials said.
During the events, the men also collected cash donations in a jug, the news release states.
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