|NEWARK – A State Superior Court Judge today granted the application submitted by Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the Division of Consumer Affairs and ordered the immediate impounding of the pickup truck that the two operators of an allegedly bogus charity used to solicit donations they claimed were for surviving family members of emergency responders who died at the World Trade Center on 9-11.
Judge Vincent J. Grasso also ordered the two operators of the truck, both convicted felons and named as defendants in the State’s pending Complaint, to stop soliciting donations. The truck, which features a custom paint job and lists the names of emergency responders who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, currently is at a local dealership for servicing and the Division has contacted the dealership to arrange for its impoundment.
"We're pleased that Judge Grasso granted our application for immediate relief pending the final resolution of this case. The truck and the two men who we contend defrauded the public are effectively shut down and can no longer use the tragic events of 9/11 to, as we have alleged in our Complaint, swindle money from unsuspecting members of the public," Attorney General Chiesa said
In its Complaint, the State contends defendants Mark Anthony Niemczyk and Thomas J. Scalgione defrauded donors by using the monies to enrich themselves instead of giving it to the 9-11 victims’ families. Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls, is the registered owner of the pickup truck. He allegedly told the public he was a former Navy SEAL and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, when such is not the case, and at one time even had a license plate on the pickup truck reading “N-Seal.” He was previously convicted in 1989 of committing welfare fraud.
Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin, allegedly claimed to handle public relations for truck appearances. He has several criminal convictions, including theft, forgery, fraudulent use of credit cards and possession of an emergency communications receiver during the commission of a crime.
The State’s pending Complaint contends Niemczyk and Scalgione committed multiple violations of the State’s Charities Registration and Investigation Act, including operating an unregistered charity.
In addition to operating an unregistered charity, a review of financial records revealed that donated funds were deposited in Niemczyk’s personal bank account. None of the organizations that the defendants claimed to have sent donations to had any records or memory of receiving donations from the defendants. One charity the defendants claimed to support, the Cain Foundation, does not exist. Rosemary Cain, whose firefighter son died on 9-11, was never contacted by Niemczyk or Scalgione and has never received any money from them.
Both defendants also allegedly sold tee shirts bearing the logos of the New York City Police Department, New York City Fire Department and Port Authority Police Department to the public at 9-11 memorial events from mid-2011 to the present, purportedly to raise funds for their charity. They were not authorized to use the logos.
The State initiated an investigation after a former New York City police officer filed a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs after seeing the defendants’ pickup truck at a World Trade Center memorial service in Barnegat. After doing some research, the officer had concerns about whether Niemczyk and Scalgione were operating a legitimate charitable organization.
Deputy Attorney General Anna M. Lascurain in the Division of Law is representing the State in this matter. Chief Investigator Lawrence J. Biondo and Investigators William Plowman, Patrick Mullan and Raquel L. Williams in the Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection, Charities Enforcement Unit, conducted the investigation.
Consumers who believe they may have been defrauded by the defendants should file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs. A complaint form is available online at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov and complaints may be registered by calling the Division at 800-242-5846 (toll-free within N.J.) or at 973-504-6200.
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