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Bogus Charity Operators Ordered to Pay Civil Penalties, Permanently Barred from Charity Work

Under the Final Consent Judgment, both parties admitted to committing multiple violations of the State’s Charities Registration and Investigation Act, including operating an unregistered charity.

The two operators of a bogus charity who claimed to be supporting the families of emergency responders who died at the World Trade Center on 9-11 have been ordered to disgorge $121,116 in donations, pay civil penalties and are permanently barred from working for any charitable organization in New Jersey, under terms of a judgement announced today.

State Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs in July 2011 filed suit against Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls, and Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin, for defrauding donors by using the monies to enrich themselves instead of giving it to  9-11 victims’ families.  Under the Final Consent Judgment,  both Niemczyk and Scalgione admitted to committing multiple violations of the State’s Charities Registration and Investigation Act, including operating an unregistered charity.

“This case illustrates how charlatans will use a tragic event, and the pretext of helping those in need, to profit themselves. We’re on alert for similar scams in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and consumers should perform due diligence before making donations if they are contacted and asked to aid storm victims,” Attorney General Chiesa said in a prepared statement.

The Division of Consumer Affairs maintains an online, searchable database
of the approximately 26,000 charitable organizations that are registered to operate in New Jersey.  

Attorney General Chiesa noted that the Division of Consumer Affairs to date has registered only one charity created specifically to aid individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy. That organization, Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, was created by First Lady Mary Pat Christie.

“We have zero tolerance for those who attempt to enrich themselves by using
emotional appeals following a tragedy or disaster to defraud consumers who want to help those in need,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs said in the statement. “The Division will seek swift and severe action against those who use the name of a just cause to enrich themselves.” 

Niemczyk and Scalgione brought a custom-painted pickup truck to public events, where they sold t-shirts featuring the logos of the New York City police and fire departments and also took cash donations, under the guise of helping the families of fallen first responders.

including the impoundment of the pickup truck.  Niemczyk and Scalgione also were ordered to stop soliciting donations from the public. 

Niemczyk is the owner of the pickup truck, while Scalgione functioned as its booking agent and publicized where the truck would be on display. The truck has since been repossessed by its financing company.

The donations and money raised through t-shirt sales were commingled in Niemczyk’s personal bank account, which he used for personal expenses and
 for upkeep and maintenance of the truck, according to the statement.  In addition to the disgorgement of $121,116, Niemczyk was assessed $98,993 in civil penalties and reimbursement of the State’s costs in bringing this case. The assessment is suspended but will become immediately payable if he violates the terms of the Final Consent Judgment.

Scalgione was assessed $73,993 in civil penalties and reimbursement of the State’s costs, and ordered to pay $1,000. The remaining assessment is suspended but will become immediately payable if he violates the terms of
 the Final Consent Judgment.

Editor's note: The Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs offered the following advice for consumers seeking to make donations to help those affected by Sandy: 

Before donating to a charity, find out whether the organization is registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs, or is exempt from the registration requirement. (Certain religious and educational organizations, and charities that raise less than $10,000 annually in contributions, are exempt).

Learn how, exactly, the charity plans to use your money.

Learn how much the charity spent during recent fiscal years on program costs, management costs, and fundraising. Learn about the charity’s stated mission.

Verify the information by calling the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Charities Registration Hotline at 973-504-6215, or go to the Division's Charities Registration page: http://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/chardir.htm.

Consumers can find this information with the Division’s free New Jersey Charity Search smartphone app<http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/new-jersey-charity-search/id503535534?ls=1&mt=8>.

Consumers who believe they may have been defrauded should file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs. A complaint form is available online at http://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.

Irina November 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Consumer Affairs is a joke. The public can't count of them to enforce ANYTHING. It's a figure head who does press releases and a bunch of cronies who do the legwork. Sounds good in the press, but try being a victim. Both these men should be in jail and paying back every dime they scammed the public out of. Slap on the wrist doesn't cut it!!!
i don't get it?? November 19, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Wow, no jail time??? Really, none??? You can get away with just about anything anymore...can't ya?? As my screen name states...I DON'T GET IT!!??
jim November 19, 2012 at 08:42 PM
SCUMBAGS
vivian mc loughlin November 19, 2012 at 09:10 PM
I am the widow of a FDNY Fire fighter who passed away from his service to 9-11 on 1-11-11....may they rot in hell!!
WhtgJohn November 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I have to agree with "Guess who" and the opinion expressed. I had a problem with a landscaper who caused almost $1500.00 in damage to my house. I had plenty of documentation and proved the guy was operating an illegal business. The Ocean County Office of Consumer Affairs told me to pursue it in Small Claims Court. They couldn't be bothered with my complaint, even though my complaint was fully documented and substantiated. Maybe the name should be changed to "Department of Consumer Indifference?"
John Walton November 19, 2012 at 11:22 PM
Bet you $1000 they are Tea Party Republicans.. LOSERS!
RDinLacey November 19, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Seriously...no jail time? How pathetic!!!
Proud Pappa November 20, 2012 at 12:15 AM
WHAT DIRTBAGS...victimize the people and families that already had thier lives ripped apart..Great job Scags!!,, ur a pillar of your community...a pillar that has no right to even show his face in public...you and your "partner"..
ken schaefer November 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
John, care to post your proof ?
Ralebird November 20, 2012 at 07:30 AM
Where's the statement from the prosecutors who allowed this to be handled in Civil Court rather than Criminal Court?
Colleen Platt November 20, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Hello everyone, I had to delete or reject a few comments on this article due to threatening language, which violates our terms of service. Feel free to resubmit your comments without the threats or profane language. Thanks. - Colleen
Poindexter McSmash November 20, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Remember Katrina? Millions that were collected, but didn't get there? Charities can keep 85% of your donations to run there self appointed scam! If you believe in God or not, at least the church will do whats right and help others when you donate your hard earned cash...
Susan McDermott November 20, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I'm glad these two scammers are being ordered to pay *some* of the money back that they stole. Just remember: there are more scammers out there still. Let's hope they can't continue to slip-slide there way out of consquences for their actions and are ALL brought to justice.
Brian Holt November 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Let me guess, everything's Bush's fault too, right?
FaFa FloFa November 20, 2012 at 10:03 PM
This is a joke. I said it years ago they were a scam, their son Mike told me. Ridiculous!
F.Lee November 21, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I hope this is discussed at the dedication of the second Barnegat 9/11 Memorial. I believe it is scheduled to be completed around the time that Xanadu thing in the Meadowlands is.
ed crowley November 21, 2012 at 01:20 AM
I like it pay back a portion of what you stole and will call it even. Do we have any idea how much money they took in with this scam.
1stcav November 21, 2012 at 11:31 AM
100 of thousands of dollars a slap on the wrist ! Now they can become tow truck drivers & rip people off yet again !!!! What a joke, they should have been hung in the center of town for all to see !!!!! Low life's , not in the bottom of the barrel, under the barrel , lowest of the low .
George November 23, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Towing is in their future
F.Lee November 24, 2012 at 08:40 PM
In an August 2, 2011 titled Truck that Transported Piece of Barnegat 9/11 Memorial Implicated in Alleged Scam. by Tom Davis, Colleen Platt and Chris Sheldon noted that a well known 9/11 advocate gave testimony in regards to his knowledge of the truck. Now this incident has been adjudicated would it be possible for all testimony to be released? This is a local story which made National News.
F.Lee November 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
n an article dated August 2, 2011 titled Truck that Transported Piece of Barnegat 9/11 Memorial Implicated in Alleged Scam. by Tom Davis, Colleen Platt and Chris Sheldon noted that a well known 9/11 advocate gave testimony in regards to his knowledge of the truck. Now this incident has been adjudicated would it be possible for all testimony to be released? This is a local story which made National News.

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