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Men charged with defrauding 9/11 charities

From Jonathan Wald

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two men who received nearly $350,000 in charitable aid after allegedly falsely claiming that their offices were destroyed in the World Trade Center attacks have been arrested on federal fraud charges.

Prosecutors said Alexander Koltovskoy, 36, of Manhattan, and Vincent Pizzi III, 48, of Mamaroneck, New York, had actually moved out of their offices two years before the September 11 terror attacks. But after the towers fell, the men sought financial aid from seven government agencies and charities, prosecutors said.

The men were successful in getting money from six agencies and charities, including $228,000 from the Small Business Administration and $28,000 from the American Red Cross, according to prosecutors.

"In the aftermath of September 11, we saw an outpouring of public and private efforts to help the victims of the attacks," said U.S. Attorney James B. Comey. "The defendants undermined the tremendous efforts of our nation's relief agencies by shamefully diverting precious resources from those who needed them most."

Koltovskoy faces 18 fraud counts, while Pizzi has been charged with five counts of fraud. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison and a minimum $250,000 fine.

Since September 11, 2001, there have been hundreds of arrests in connection with schemes to fraudulently obtain disaster relief money, including false reports of deaths and injuries and suspicious claims for missing cars.

The amount of money allegedly obtained by Koltovskoy and Pizzi makes it one of the largest September 11 fraud cases.

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