Dennis & Judi Meet Pair Accused of Profiting on 9/11 Pain
Two shore men with criminal pasts are being sued by New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa's office, accused of collecting tens of thousands of dollars for families of first-responders who died in the World Trade Center attacks - then keeping it. And Dennis & Judi met them on the Diner Tour.
Mark Anthony Niemczyk, 66, of Tinton Falls, and Thomas J. Scalgione, 40, of Manahawkin, are accused of defrauding the public by operating an unregistered charity. The lawsuit stems from a complaint filed by a former New York City police officer after an encounter during a memorial service in Barnegat.
Niemczyk & Scalgione came to the Stafford Diner during the Diner Tour and presented them with what they said was debris from Ground Zero complete with "authentication."
Investigators say that from about mid-2011 until now, the pair traveled the state in Niemczyk's pickup truck, which was festooned with the names of first-responders who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers.
They're accused with selling t-shirts bearing unauthorized emblems of the New York City Police and Fire Departments and Port Authority Police Department, collecting donations in a jug. The money, say investigators, went instead to Niemczyk.
At the Stafford Diner, the two stayed until the end of the appearance, insisting that Dennis & Judi pose with them for a picture.
The three-count complaint filed in Ocean County Superior Court charges them with multiple violations of New Jersey's Charities Registration and Investigation Act. Investigators are considering whether they can pursue criminal prosecution.
Investigators say that Niemczyk characterized himself as a former Navy SEAL and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and add that the license plate on the truck once bore the legend "N-Seal." Scalgione allegedly represented himself as the truck's public relations contact.
The complaint says that the pair claimed to collect for, among others, the Cain Foundation. According to authorities, no such charity exists; and Rosemary Cain, mother of a firefighter who died in the attacks, has no knowledge of them.
The Attorney General's office says that Niemczyk pleaded guilty to welfare fraud in 1989, and Scalgione's convictions include theft, forgery, fraudulent use of credit cards and possession of an emergency communications receiver during the commission of a crime.