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Manahawkin Man Involved In 9/11 Charity Pickup-Truck Scam Pleads Guilty

The same truck transported a tower piece recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero to Barnegat in 2011 to serve as a memorial for those who died

Pickup truck implicated in 9/11 charity scam.
Pickup truck implicated in 9/11 charity scam.

A Manahawkin man was among two to plead guilty to theft charges Monday for operating a fraudulent 9/11 charity using a pickup truck painted with the Twin Towers and the names of police and firefighters who died at Ground Zero.

The same truck transported a tower piece recovered from the wreckage of Ground Zero to Barnegat in 2011 to serve as a memorial for those who died.

Mark Niemczyk, 67, of Tinton Falls, and Thomas Scalgione, 41, of Manahawkin, each pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney in Ocean County.

They collected thousands of dollars by selling T-shirts and soliciting donations at 9/11 events, but never gave any of the proceeds to the victims’ families or to 9/11 charities as promised, according to the state Attorney General's Office.

Through the efforts of resident and former Patch blogger Charles Giles and others, a 9-foot steel beam was gifted to the Barnegat Township School district in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Under plea agreements, the state will recommend that Niemczyk be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation, and that Scalgione be sentenced to a term of probation.

Scalgione was already on probation in connection with charges filed by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in unrelated matters, and his guilty plea will mean that he will face jail time for violating probation.

The two men are scheduled to be sentenced on March 7.

As a condition of probation, the men must comply with the terms of a final consent judgment in a civil action filed by the Division of Consumer Affairs, under which they must pay more than $120,000, representing disgorgement of donations and payment of civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.

The judgment bars the men from ever working for any charitable organization in New Jersey. 

Deputy Attorney General Sarah Lichter prosecuted the case and took the guilty pleas.  The criminal charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, which began with a referral from the Division of Consumer Affairs.

“These con men shamelessly exploited the generosity of others, enriching themselves by diverting funds that were intended for the families of 9/11 victims,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “These guilty pleas ensure thatNiemczyk and Scalgione will carry criminal records for the rest of their lives that will bear witness to their greed and deviousness.”

“These defendants exploited a tragedy for their personal gain, and justice demanded that they face criminal prosecution,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to work closely with the Division of Consumer Affairs to investigate and prosecute those who rip off unsuspecting donors by setting up false charities.”

Detective Roxanna Ordonez and Deputy Attorney General Lichter investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, with assistance from Detective Kim Allen of the Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau and Detective Eric Ludwick of the Specialized Crimes Bureau.

The investigation revealed that 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 Scalgione worked as partners to bring the truck to 9/11 events both inside and outside New Jersey, where they sold T-shirts and collected donations.

Scalgione acted as the “public relations” person, making arrangements for their participation at 9/11 events with the truck, according to the Attorney General's Office.  The men were not registered with the State of New Jersey as a charitable organization as required by law.

The defendants were indicted in connection with their sale of T-shirts and collection of cash donations from June 1, 2010 through July 4, 2012. The two men purchased hundreds of T-shirts that were printed with 9/11 themes similar to those painted on the truck.

They purchased the shirts from two vendors, one vendor charging between $3 and $6.90 per shirt, and the second charging $4 to $5.  Niemczyk and Scalgione sold the T-shirts out of the truck for $20 apiece at various 9/11 events, where they also put out a jug to collect cash donations.

The two men told people that the proceeds from the T-shirt sales and cash donations would benefit families of 9/11 victims or 9/11 charity organizations.  At times, the men represented that they ran an established 501(c)(3) charity or were affiliated with a registered 9/11 charity. 

The men also displayed a sign that indicated “All donations for the T-shirts go to families of 9/11.” 

In reality, no proceeds went to 9/11 families or charities. Thousands of dollars in proceeds from the T-shirts and cash donations were deposited into personal bank accounts of Niemczyk and used to pay for personal expenses, according to the Attorney General's Office.

Mac January 06, 2014 at 05:06 PM
Ah, the Charlie politics still at work. If these two slimeballs hadn't been associated with Giles, I'm of the very strong opinion they wouldn't have gotten off with a parking ticket fine. One gets room and board for a few months at best and no one pays any money back. Yeah, they won't do it again, at least before Charlie is up and running again perhaps.
F.Lee January 06, 2014 at 05:36 PM
This story will forever be the pimple on the prom picture for Barnegat Township.
Walter Mitty January 06, 2014 at 06:38 PM
The article does not mention that one of the men was masquerading as a Navy SEAL. Ironic that Stafford Twp Mayor John Spodofora met with senior citizens and gave them an awareness talk on scams and frauds shortly after these two were busted. Mayor John Spodofora then made national headlines when he was exposed as a decorated Vietnam Navy SEAL Imposter who grossly embellished his Navy career to the community for many years. Besides military exaggerations, Spodofora has made other outrageous claims as being the co-founder and Jon of RONJON Surf Shops. That too was proven to be a gross exaggeration according to RONJON Executives who label this in a phone conversation as a urban legend that Mr Spodofora has fabricated himself. There is absolutely no record of any connection between Spodofora and RONJON in it's business history. Recognized as one of the nations top military embellishers John Spodofora name was placed in the 2012 Military Times Hall of Stolen Valor. This man has not only forever scarred his family name but that of our township….
SEAL76 January 06, 2014 at 07:16 PM
I am a former SEAL/Vietnam veteran. BUD/S Class 57 and SEAL TEAM ONE 70-73. Also the father of a former SEAL. The number of SEAL impostors that have been coming out of the gutter would astound you. The number of active duty SEALs is about 2000. The number of SEALs who actually served in Vietnam is around 300. Some of these SEALs served multiple tours.
Jack Reilly January 06, 2014 at 07:21 PM
No mention of the truck will it be sold and the proceeds go to the 9/11 family's????????. Take every dollar they make for the rest of there lives' give it to the 9/11 family's.
Walter Mitty January 06, 2014 at 07:24 PM
Sadly, Spodofora also used his grossly exaggerated military service to get himself placed on the Stafford Schools Hall of Fame claiming Vietnam Service, serving as a member of UDT-21 as well as exaggerated college and residency since 1957.
Proud Pappa January 06, 2014 at 08:59 PM
Burns my a@@ that I bought 4 shirts and put a $20 in the barrel .. Told my sons to continue to wear the shirts to memorialize the fallen as the event did happen and men and women gave their lives to save others..its just that there are dirtballs in this world who will take advantage of anything to make a buck....and he met 2 of them that day..What ever happened to the Giles fraud fiasco?? "NEVER FORGET"
anonymous January 06, 2014 at 10:59 PM
1 part greed + 1 part desperation= probation
Grunt January 07, 2014 at 08:03 AM
The problem with our judicial system is that we slap criminals on the wrist. Scalgione is no stranger to the system as he was already on probation. Instead of sentencing him to additional jail time they will default back to his probation violation. The sentence should be consecutive. In an attempt to add credibility to himself, Niemczyk portrayed himself to be a Navy Seal with two tours in Viet Nam. This was his downfall. He could not hide the fact that he was a poser as the Navy Seals are a tight knit group where everyone knows each other. He also posed as a FDNY fire fighter. They should both rot!
T.j. Gilmartin January 07, 2014 at 09:40 AM
What about Charlie Gilles ?
Mac January 07, 2014 at 10:03 AM
@TJ - check with the 9th District - they represented him several times
T.j. Gilmartin January 07, 2014 at 11:55 AM
9th District What ?
T.j. Gilmartin January 07, 2014 at 11:56 AM
Gilles was selling those T-Shirts out of his house
SEAL76 January 09, 2014 at 01:39 PM
For anyone who is interested there is a database that dates back to World War 2 that lists the men who have beenNCDU, UDT or SEALs. There are a total of 20,000 names on that list. If you meet someone who claims to have been in the Naval Combat Demolition Units (NCDU) Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) or a SEAL (Sea, Air Land) they may be for real but it more likely that they are not. The men who keep track of fakes have had as many as 200 men per month claim to be SEALs etc. about 1 out of every 200 is for real. I am a former SEAL BUD/S Class 57 SEAL TEAM ONE 70-73 and a Vietnam Vet. I have personally met close to 50 people since I left the SEALs who claim to have been either UDT or SEAL. One of them was. If they tell you that their class was secret or that they were in SEAL TEAM SIX they are probably liars.
Michael Ramsey January 27, 2014 at 02:53 PM
I am not a SEAL just an ordinary US Army Tank Commander and MP for 36 years both active and reserve and my question is why is John Spodofora still Mayor?
Michael Ramsey January 27, 2014 at 02:54 PM
I would be more than happy to drive that truck around and use it for its intended purpose.

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