The Barnegat High School's 9/11 memorial was "not tarnished" by the involvement of alleged scam-artists who helped contribute World Trade Center steel to the monument, school officials say.
Karen Wood, superintendent of schools, said the piece that was recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero is certified by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The same truck that transported the tower piece - which serves as a memorial for those who died - is now at the center of an alleged scam.
Wood said. "This serves as an educational piece that helps us not forget what happened at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."
Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin and Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls were accused this week of promoting a bogus 9/11 victims' charity by driving around in the same pickup truck, which was painted with the names of first responders who perished.
The Attorney General's Office has sued Scalgione — who has had a long history of theft and sex offense convictions — and Niemczyk for allegedly operating an unregistered charity. Their first court appearance is scheduled for the Ocean County Courthouse at 10 a.m. Friday.
Both Scalgione and Niemczyk drove the red pickup truck, which bore the names of first responders who perished in the attacks, but the state has since impounded it. According to Patch and MSN file photos of the truck, it bore different logos and license plates at different time periods.
Last year, first responders, school children, politicians and the American legion, among others, took part in an emotionally charged unveiling of the 9/11 Memorial at Barnegat High school, which includes the steel.
Over a dozen school children from the four grammar schools and the Russell O. Brackman Middle School kicked off the ceremony, leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Giles, a resident who spearheaded the effort to bring the steel to town, took a minute to reflect on the memorial prior to the ceremony. "It took at lot to get his baby here," he concluded at the time.
Giles, who has denied any involvement in the alleged scam, was one of the district's main points of contact when the steel was delivered for the memorial, Wood said.
Bill Cox, transportation coordinator for the Barnegat Township School District, said the district didn't know Scalgione and Niemczyk could be part of an alleged scam.
The attorney general's office has requested that the court order the immediate impounding of Niemczyk's pickup truck to stop soliciting donations from the public, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said in a 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 Chiesa said. “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.”
Niemczyk allegedly lied to the people he solicited by telling them he was a former Navy SEAL and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and at one time had a license plate on the pickup truck reading “N-Seal”. Niemczyk pleaded guilty in 1989 to committing welfare fraud.
Scalgione allegedly claims to handle public relations for truck appearances and 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, according to the release.
Niemczyk and Scalgione also allegedly have been selling T-shirts with New York City Police and Fire Department and Port Authority Police Department logos at 9/11 memorial events since mid-2011 to raise funds for their charity.
The release states that both were not authorized to use the logos and that they allegedly also had a collection jug for cash donations when they attended events with the truck.