By Karen Zautyk
Last May, The Observer carried a story about two “alleged leeches” who had been driving around New Jersey supposedly collecting money for 9/11 charities.
We can now remove the “alleged.”
Last week, leeches Mark Niemczyk, 67, of Tinton Falls, and Thomas Scalgione, 41, of Manahawkin, pleaded guilty to theft charges connected with the scam they had perpetrated upon countless trusting donors.
Niemczyk and Scalgione had travelled the state in a red pickup truck bearing images of the Twin Towers and the names of the police officers and firefighters who had died at Ground Zero. It was a noble-looking vehicle, which your correspondent saw at least once in this area.
From June 1, 2010, through July 4, 2012, the con men drove the truck to 9/11-related events throughout N.J.– and sometimes out of state–selling T-shirts and collecting contributions that supposedly would go to 9/11 charities and victims’ families. Instead, all the money went into their own pockets.
The two were indicted last May following an investigation by the N.J. Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau.
On Jan. 6, before Superior Court Judge James Blaney in Ocean County, Niemczyk pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception; Scalgione, to third-degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
According to the announcement by Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman, under their 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.
Hoffman’s office noted that Scalgione was already on probation in connection with unrelated charges in Monmouth County and his guilty plea means he will face jail time for violating probation.
Under a consent judgment in a civil action filed by the Division of Consumer Affairs, they must also pay more than $120,000, “representing disgorgement of donations and payment of civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.”
Last week’s guilty pleas “ensure that Niemczyk and Scalgione will carry criminal records for the rest of their lives that will bear witness to their greed and deviousness,” Hoffman said.