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12 Survivors Charged in Relief Aid Scam

Crime: Employees at World Trade Center cafeteria are accused of receiving emergency funds after claiming that they lost their jobs.


NEW YORK — A dozen World Trade Center cafeteria workers who escaped safely Sept. 11 have been charged with illegally taking money from the American Red Cross disaster relief fund by claiming they had lost wages when they continued to be paid.

The employees, who were transferred to other locations after the attacks, received emergency rent and mortgage payments, grocery money and other cash grants by pretending they had lost their jobs, according to Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert Morgenthau.

Authorities began investigating the group after receiving tips from other employees. Nine people were in custody Friday morning, according to a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

Eight were arrested Thursday as part of a ruse in which they were told to show up to receive credentials to serve at a luncheon. Authorities were searching for three more after a ninth was arrested later in the day.

A total of $14,065 was taken by the employees.

"The monetary amounts are not that significant, but the deed was so egregious that their own co-workers turned them in," Robert van Etten, inspector general of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said in a published report.

Charges include larceny and falsifying business records. They could face up to seven years in prison.

The defendants, all of whom worked at the Port Authority cafeteria on the 43rd floor of One World Trade Center, left the building safely Sept. 11. Each went to an emergency disaster assistance center in late September and early October. They claimed they needed help because they had lost employment as a result of the attacks. They received cash for food and transportation, and rent and mortgage checks ranging from $550 to more than $2,000.

"In reality, they had never lost a day's wages and were still employed," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

The defendants' salaries ranged from $25,000 to $69,000.

No full-time employee of the Port Authority, including the dozen allegedly involved in the scam, lost wages or had income delayed due to the Sept. 11 tragedy, according to court documents.

Wages were placed directly in employees' bank accounts, or a special courier service was used to deliver paychecks on time.

Those arrested include Janet McDonald, 47, of Plainfield, N.J., the supervisor of the cafeteria. She received $2,420 in false payments, the largest amount paid, officials said.

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