N.J. Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing from 9/11 Disaster Relief Funds

May 11, 2004

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey announced that a Union County man who fraudulently obtained more than $42,000 in Sept. 11 survivor benefits by claiming he had been displaced from his Manhattan employment as a result of the World Trade Center terrorist attack has pleaded guilty to theft charges. The Attorney General noted that the Division of Criminal Justice continues to investigate allegations of fraud related to 9/11 disaster relief programs and charities.

“The Division of Criminal Justice investigated this case with vigor and determination,” said Harvey. “The defendant admitted creating a non-existent case file in order to scam money from various disaster relief agencies. His actions offend both human decency and the families of the real victims of the September 11 tragedy. The Division of Criminal Justice has uncovered and prosecuted several cases where individuals have fraudulently claimed to be victims of the 9/11 disaster – only to determine they were fabricating stories in order to receive thousands of dollars in illegal benefits. Anyone who endeavors to defraud the public and private assistance programs established to aid September 11 victims and their families will be prosecuted .”

According to Vaughn McKoy, director, Division of Criminal Justice, Michael J. Matthews, 36, of Summit, Union County, entered a guilty plea before Union County Superior Court Judge John Malone to a criminal Accusation which charged theft by deception.

In pleading guilty on May 10, Matthews, a former employee of the Deutsche Bank located in Manhattan, NYC, reportedly filed claims with four separate public and private disaster relief funds seeking compensation as a displaced employee. The investigation determined that Matthews had been terminated from his Deutsche Bank employment prior to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack and was ineligible for any relief payments.

The investigation determined that Matthews provided bogus Deutsche Bank employment records, payroll receipts and other documents and identifying information to verify the claims for disaster relief. The fraudulent information was submitted to four relief agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), The Salvation Army, The United Way of Greater Union County, and The North Jersey Media Group Foundation Inc. Additionally, it is charged that Matthews received monies from two charities funded by corporate donations – Crestech Training & Education Inc. and Elizabeth Town Gas Company.

As a result of the fraudulent claims, the agencies and charities paid Matthews a combined $42,493.07 in relief payments. The various agencies paid the following amounts: The Salvation Army – $9,519.07; The United Way of Greater Union County – $8,100.00; FEMA – $14,460.00; and The North Jersey Media Group Foundation – $5,800.00.

Terrence Hull, supervising deputy attorney general, said the initial concerns about the veracity of Matthews’s application were raised by the Salvation Army.

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