Two New Jersey men who collected money for families of 9/11 victims were indicted by a New Jersey grand jury after officials say they kept the money for themselves. The men and their truck decorated with the names of people who died during 9/11 also participated in a Millsboro parade in 2011.
Mark Niemczyk, 66, and Thomas Scalgione, 41, were indicted May 3 on third-degree conspiracy and theft by deception. Niemczyk also was charged with third-degree failure to file a personal state income tax return in 2011 after he did not report money he collected for 9/11 victims' families and did not report $55,000 in casino winnings from 2011, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
Under New Jersey law, third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison.
The criminal charges were filed after the Division of Consumer Affairs won a civil action against the men who were ordered to pay more than $200,000 including repaid donations and penalties.
"We allege that these defendants told a barrage of lies to further their scheme, with Niemczyk claiming he was a Navy SEAL who served three tours of duty in Vietnam, and both men telling donors they were father-and-son firefighters who were working at a firehouse near the World Trade Center on 9/11," said Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. "Their conduct was outrageous, and we urge any victims who donated money or bought T-shirts from these con artists to contact us."
Investigators said Niemczyk bought a Ford F-150 pickup truck in June 2010 and had it custom-painted with 9/11 themes, including the World Trade Center towers, the logos of the New York City police and fire departments, and the names of the first responders who perished in New York on 9/11. Niemczyk and Sclagione drove the truck to event both in New Jersey and outside the state where they also sold T-shirts and collected donations, the Attorney General's Office states.
"It is alleged that, in reality, no proceeds went to 9/11 families or charities. Proceeds in excess of $50,000 from the T-shirts and cash donations were allegedly deposited into personal bank accounts of Niemczyk and were used to pay for personal expenses," the Attorney General's Office states.
The men admitted to operating an unregistered charity during the civil action taken against them by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Anyone who gave them men donations or bought T-shirts from them during 9/11 events or have other information about their activities is asked to call the Division of Criminal Justice at 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.