Two New Jersey ex-cons who traveled the country in a red truck emblazoned with the names of fallen 9/11 first responders pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in donations they said would go to a Ground Zero charity, authorities said yesterday. Some of you may remember seeing this truck in downtown Indy at FDIC previously. Naturally, FDIC never supported or endorsed this project....they just parked downtown and sold their shirts as a scam.
Several news sources (links below) are reporting that Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, and Thomas Scalgione, 40, were so brazen that they posed for photos with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, other politicians and real first responders while fleecing good-hearted donors, New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa charged in a lawsuit.
"It is beyond comprehension that anyone would try to profit themselves under the guise of collecting donations to help the surviving family members, Chiesa said, adding that criminal charges were pending.
In late 2010, Niemczyk and Scalgione started showing up with the truck at various memorial programs for 9/11 or first responders, according to retired FDNY Lt. Joe Torrillo, who survived the collapse of the Twin Towers and now gives talks nationwide. "This joker, Mark Anthony, showed up at my event. He comes in a red pickup truck with flashing lights and all the firefighter names on it. Claims he is a Navy SEAL, Torillo said. He was too cocky. I knew it wasn't right."
The Ford F-150s license place, which is registered to Niemczyk, even read: N-Seal.
He wrote inflammatory slogans on the truck, such as "Everything I learned about Islam I learned on 9/11, and even befriended wacky, Koran-burning Pastor Terry Jones.
Niemczyk, who has a 1989 welfare-fraud conviction, later admitted to investigators he was never a SEAL.
But for more than a year, the two collected donations in a water jug and sold FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts.
They claimed the proceeds went to the Cain Foundation, in honor of firefighter George Cain, who died on 9/11 but no such charity exists.
"We didn't run no fake charity, said Niemczyk. One guy said we did, and now they are investigating it. It's just getting so blown out of proportion. Scalgione, who has fraud, theft and forgery convictions, insisted, it is not a scam and claims it is actually real. WTF.
MORE HERE (with video)
There are numerous genuine and 100% honest groups that have raised money for the surviving families of 9/11 ...Line of Duty deaths and related projects. Their efforts to support those families as well as educate the unknowing about 9/11 and related tragic events are beyond commendable.
However-it's hard to keep track of all the groups ...as there have been so many.
Our thoughts are that while so many are very genuine and honest, some are not-as you have read above-as we have all seen many times over the last few years-there is no limit to the disgusting (and criminal) tactics some have taken.
Since we are not aware of any national "registry" to confirm any groups legitimacy, the best seems to do your homework and even reach out to those they claim they are helping and supporting. Have your D.A., your local Prosecutor, P.D. or Sheriff look into them well before you commit to any event or activity. Ask for all of the "paperwork" (including 501c3 accounting related paperwork) and whatever else needs to be done to insure you, your FD and community time and money is being spent 100% in the manner that is being represented. Check with the FD or organization they claim to be helping. Check with the Union(s) and Associations and ask for documentation that proves the support and endorsement. Any legit group will never have any problem rapidly providing all that is needed-and there is nothing wrong or insulting about you asking.
When people are tragically killed-especially Firefighters-emotions run understandably high ....and our hearts (and wallets) open up-all with the thought and intention of helping those folks do good. It is our nature to help. Unfortunately some mutts take advantage of that-for whatever reasons. We simply suggest that you keep your eyes wide open, have your local authorities do a thorough "background check" to insure those "coming to town" are legit as individuals - and as an organization-and if they are and they are fully supported by those they claim to help and all is clean-welcome them with open arms. Just make sure all of the questions are asked and the answers are verified. There have been many scams like the above where so many later ended up regretting their support-in thinking they were simply doing good.
Take Care-Be Careful,
The Secret List 7-31-12 / 1000 hours