Man admits 9/11 fraud
W. Windsor resident lied about needing FEMA money
Friday, March 28, 2008
BY RYAN TRACY
Scott Shields, the West Windsor resident now famous for allegedly false claims that his dog Bear helped discover victims of the World Trade Center collapse, has pleaded guilty to defrauding relief agencies of nearly $50,000 in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Shields’ attorney, Jonathan Marks, confirmed that Shields pleaded guilty yesterday to all counts of a federal indictment alleging he lied about needing housing assistance funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On his assistance application, Shields claimed he needed the money because of the Sept. 11 terror attack on New York City. Federal officials charged that he was actually living in Connecticut at the time.
Shields received money earmarked for those living near Ground Zero — $38,906 from FEMA and $10,553 from the Red Cross — after he gave false information to the agencies, according to the indictment.
Shields has not been sentenced and the guilty plea, entered at a federal court in New York, was not contingent on any agreement regarding sentencing, Marks said.
Combined, the crimes of theft of government funds, mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States carry a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.
Shields and his golden retriever became a nationally recognized duo because of Shield’s claims that together they found the most victims at Ground Zero.
The pair became feature story material for many media outlets, including The Times. However, Retired New York City Police Lt. Dan Donadio, a former K9 officer whose teams led the Ground Zero recovery efforts, has said that during the initial hours of the recovery effort he told Shields to leave the site because Bear was not a trained rescue dog and might mislead emergency workers.
Other critics have accused Shields of misrepresenting his search-and-rescue expertise and exaggerating his exploits.
According to the federal indictment, Shields actually lived with his sister in Greenwich, Conn., in 2001 but subsequently paid rent on an apartment in lower Manhattan in 2002.
Yesterday Shields admitted to misusing the FEMA funds to pay for a new apartment, Marks said.
According to Marks’ account, Shields said in federal court that “he knew that the money he was getting from FEMA was supposed to be used only to pay back rent, but he used some of it to pay for a new apartment, and he knew that that was wrong.”
Shields also claimed the Red Cross knew he was falsely giving a Manhattan address when he applied for the assistance, according to Marks.
“He said the people at the Red Cross told him that they were going to try to fit him into a program to benefit people who lived below Canal Street (the northern boundary of the area in which residents could qualify for the Red Cross’ aid program) even though he told them that he lived in Connecticut,” Marks said.
Shields did admit, however, that he “signed an application stating falsely that he lived below Canal Street,” Marks said.
Checks mailed to Shields for the fraudulently obtained Red Cross money were the basis of the mail fraud charge, which alone carries a maximum penalty of 20 years.
Let me comment on the spin that the defense lawyer made in this article, and the one below. Scott did not take some of the money and use it for back rent or for the new apartment. He paid not one penny to the landlord for any rent. NOT ONE PENNY. PERIOD. He took the money and he spent it on himself for whatever …. I guess food and gasoline for his car, etc. Remember, this man has not had a paying job (or filed a tax return) since before 2001 when he and his sister drove their business into the ground and into bankruptcy … something they have done repeatedly. And, they have stiffed landlords repeatedly, as well, as you can see here.
Instead, he created a nonprofit foundation that has kept him nice and cushy in a townhouse in the expensive area of NJ. Pretty nice for someone who hasn’t worked in 7 years!