I have been covering this sad tale since September 2006. To see an archiving of articles on this case, please click here. Please reference my main article, TRADING IN ON TRAGEDY FOR FAME: Succumbing to the Lure of Truthiness, for the entire ugly story.
W. Windsor man pleads guilty in 9/11 relief fund fraud
By Ryan Tracy, The Times, March 27, 2008, 5:32 PM
Scott Shields, the West Windsor resident made famous by allegedly false stories about searching with his dog for victims of the World Trade Center collapse, has pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal government of Sept. 11 relief funds.
Shields’ attorney, Jonathan Marks, confirmed that Shields pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, theft of government funds, and mail fraud.
The guilty plea, entered at a federal court in New York, was not attached to any deal regarding sentencing, Marks said. Combined, the offenses carry a penalty of up to 35 years in prison.
The federal indictment alleged that Shields falsely told the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross that he lived near the World Trade Center before the Sept. 11 attacks and as a result received $38,906 in rental assistance funds from FEMA and $10,553 from the Red Cross.
Shields admitted in court Thursday to misusing those funds, Marks said.
Shields “said that he knew that the money he was getting from FEMA was supposed to be used only for back rent, but he used some of it to pay for a new apartment, and he knew that that was wrong,” Marks said.
Shields has been featured by several media outlets, including The Times, after claiming to have helped emergency workers find victims in the aftermath of Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Critics have accused Shields for misrepresenting himself as a trained search-and-rescue expert and exaggerating his exploits. Shields’ website states that a now-dead golden retriever named Bear helped Shields discover the “most victims” at the World Trade Center site.
Further information from Pacer shows that Scott’s sister, Patty, additionally plead guilty to all charges, but did so on an earlier date (March 21, 2008).