NEWARK — Two area residents are being sued by the state for allegedly collecting thousands of dollars in donations for a bogus 9/11 foundation.
Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls and Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin used money raised for their own personal gain, according to a news release from the state Office of the Attorney General. The state’s three-count complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Ocean County, contends Niemczyk and Scalgione committed multiple violations of the state’s Charities Registration and Investigation Act, according to the release.
“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,” Attorney General Jeffery S. Chiesa said in the news release. “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.”
The pair drove throughout the state in a pickup truck painted with the names of first responders who perished in the terrorist attacks, according to the news release. The state has requested the court order the immediate impounding of the pickup truck. A court hearing on the state’s request to impound the truck and to stop the defendants from soliciting donations is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m.
Scalgione said he and Niemczyk will fight to clear their names.
“They (the attorney’s general office) are the ones trying to run a scam,’’ Scalgione said Monday afternoon. “We are prepared to fight to clear our names, we are running a legitimate group.’’
The pair raised “tens of thousands of dollars’’ through the public donations, according to the release.
Both Niemczyk and Scalgione have prior convictions for fraud. Niemczyk pleaded guilty in 1989 to committing welfare fraud. Scalgione 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.
“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 emotional distress through their alleged avarice and greed.”