Thomas J Scalgione and his partner Mark Anthony Niemczyk drove around New Jersey state in a truck emblazoned with the names of 9/11 first responders who died in the World Trade Center attacks soliciting donations, supposedly for the victims of 9/11 and in particular a charity called the Cain Foundation which didn't even exist. The money in fact went into their personal bank accounts.
Mark Anthony Niemczyk represented himself as an ex Navy SEAL who had served three tours of duty in Vietnam and even made friends with wacky, Koran-burning Pastor Terry Jones. The two managed to get their photograph taken with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Dec. 31, 2011, in Freehold Borough, N.J.
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.
Niemczyk and Scalgione also allegedly had 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.
Scalgione has an extensive criminal record of 14 convictions, including: a theft conviction; a credit-card fraud conviction; a forgery conviction; a sex offence conviction (targeting a minor) and a computer-related theft conviction.
Niemczyk pleaded guilty in 1989 to committing welfare fraud.
A previous civil proceeding against the two men determined they took about $120,000 under false pretenses during the course of the scam.
“We didn’t run no fake charity,” Niemczyk, at one stage, eloquently claimed.
Eventually, both men pled guilty. Niemczyk to theft by deception, Scalgione to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. The judge placed Niemczyk on probation for five years and Scalgione on probation for a year and also ordered him to serve six months in the Ocean County Jail.
It was not immediately obvious what motivated the scam. New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa described it as "beyond comprehension."