N.J. AG sues over claims of 9/11 donations
NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced a lawsuit on Monday against two convicted felons who allegedly solicited fraudulent 9/11 donations from New Jersey residents.
The lawsuit alleges that Mark Anthony Niemczyk and Thomas J. Scalgione defrauded donors by using the money they collected to enrich themselves. The defendants allegedly drove around the state in a pickup truck painted with the names of first responders who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, and claimed the donations would go to surviving family members.
The lawsuit requests that the court immediately impound the pickup truck and that the defendants be ordered to stop soliciting donations from the public.
"The alleged actions of the defendants is an affront to everyone who remembers the fallen and to the family members who continue to endure pain from the lives that were lost among the first responders at the World Trade Center," Chiesa said. "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."
Niemczyk, the registered owner of the truck, allegedly told the public he was a former Navy SEAL and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy when that is not the case. He once allegedly used the license plate N-Seal to refer to his fake Navy SEAL status. Niemczyk pled guilty to committing welfare fraud in 1989.
Scalgione has multiple criminal convictions, including fraudulent use of credit cards, forgery, theft and possession of an emergency communications receiver during the commission of a crime.
The defendants allegedly sold T-shirts bearing the logos of the Port Authority Police Department, New York City Fire Department and New York City Police Department to the public at 9/11 memorial events starting in mid-2011, claiming to raise funds for their charity. The defendants were not authorized to use the logos. Additionally, the defendants allegedly had a collection jug for cash donations when attending the events.
A former New York City police officer saw the defendants at a World Trade Center memorial service in Barnegat and was concerned that they might not be running a legitimate charitable organization. She filed a complaint in May after doing some research.
The case has been referred for potential criminal prosecution in addition to the civil complaint.
"These defendants used a national tragedy to dupe the public," Chiesa said. "Rather than aiding the families of first responders who perished, these defendants are causing additional emotion distress through their alleged avarice and greed."
A court hearing on the state's request to enjoin the defendants from soliciting donations and to impound the truck is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m.