NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced a final consent judgment on Monday against two operators of a charity that falsely claimed to support the families of 9/11 emergency responders.
Mark Anthony Niemczyk and Thomas J. Scalgione allegedly defrauded donors by using donated money for themselves instead of giving it to the families of emergency responders who died at the World Trade Center terror attacks. Chiesa's office filed a lawsuit against the defendants in July 2011.
Under the terms of the judgment, Niemczyk and Scalgione admitted to committing multiple violations of the state's Charities Registration and Investigation Act, including operating an unregistered charity. The defendants are barred permanently from working for any charitable organization in the state, must pay civil penalties and will disgorge $121,116 in donations.
Niemczyk and Scalgione purchased a custom-painted pickup truck to take to public events and used it to sell t-shirts featuring the logos of the New York City fire and police departments. They took cash donations and claimed they would use it to help the families of first responders. No money, however, was ever sent to the victims' family members.
As part of the judgment, Niemczyk was assessed $98,993 in civil penalties and reimbursements of attorney fees that will remain suspended if he remains in compliance with the judgment. Scalgione was assessed $73,993 in civil penalties and costs, but will only have to pay $1,000 unless he violates the terms of the judgment.
"This case illustrates how charlatans will use a tragic event, and the pretext of helping those in need, to profit themselves," Chiesa said. "We're on alert for similar scams in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and consumers should perform due diligence before making donations if they are contacted and asked to aid storm victims."
Chiesa said that only one charity has been created to help individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.