MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The painful memories of the 9/11 attacks have turned to anger for some local families, who have come to learn their lost loved ones have been used to rip people off.
The memories of FDNY firefighter George Cain are abundant on Cedar Street in Massapequa.
“He died a hero and I thank God he lived an honorable life,” Cain’s mother, Rosemary Cain, told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider on Monday night.
But Rosemary Cain is now learning that her son’s name and the memory of his heroics while responding with Ladder 7 on 9/11 were used in an alleged charity scam.
Prosecutors said it was masterminded by convicted felon Mark Niemczyk, who falsely claimed he was a Navy SEAL, and another ex-con, Thomas Scalgione. They’re accused of creating a fake 9/11 charity that raised tens of thousands of dollars, but never went to benefit victims.
“Oh absolutely I feel betrayed and I feel that he’s dishonored the 343 firefighters he’s dishonored by putting their names on a truck…to scam people of their money. Absolutely it’s a betrayal, it’s disgusting,” Rosemary Cain said.
CBS 2’s Schneider went to Niemczyk’s apartment at a senior independent living complex, but got no answer.
People in the area said Niemczyk usually parks a bright, red pickup truck in a nearby parking lot. The lawsuit said that pickup truck is at the heart of the alleged scam.
It’s emblazoned with the names of 9/11 first responders and it allegedly parades around attending memorial events and soliciting money from people — all under the guise that the cash would go to 9/11 victims’ families.
But a civil lawsuit filed Friday states that the two men “…neither represent nor have any meaningful association with any of the victims of the 9/11 attack…”
Furthermore, the suit said “The donations they collect are not used to benefit victims but instead are diverted…for their own personal use.”
The men even said they were collecting to benefit the so-called Cain Foundation. Rosemary Cain said no charity bearing her son’s name even exists.
“For him to be saying that I gave him permission to go and he had whatever the documentation is for the Cain Fund, it’s not true. It’s not true,” she said.
Now, the men are being sued by the state of New Jersey to recover the money they took.
“They should hang their heads in shame for tarnishing anything connected to Sept 11th,” Rosemary Cain said.
And criminal charges stemming from this alleged scam could also be on the horizon.
The attorney general is seeking full repayment of all the money donated and wants to impound the red pickup truck.
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