WEST WINDSOR — A West Windsor man has pleaded guilty to fraud charges for the misuse of Sept. 11-related funds after he made false claims of rescuing victims with his dog Bear from the rubble of the 2001 terrorist attack.
The resident, Scott Shields, pleaded guilty on Thursday to all counts.
That guilty plea pertained to the crimes of theft of government funds, mail fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the United States after receiving almost $50,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross between November 2000 and early 2002.
Mr. Shields was actually living in Greenwich, Conn., at the time, but he signed assistance papers certifying he was living below Canal Street in Manhattan, and needed federal money due to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Those funds were supposed to be used for assistance for people living in and around Ground Zero, but Mr. Shields instead lied on his application, according to his attorney, Jonathan Marks.
”He admitted he knew that the funds that he was getting from FEMA were to pay for rent only, and he used them to get a new apartment,” said Mr. Marks.
Mr. Shields now awaits sentencing in a New York federal court, where he faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in prison.
His initial fame stemmed from his story of searching and locating victims in the debris left over from the collapse of the Twin Towers with his golden retriever Bear.
Following the publicity surrounding Mr. Shields, law enforcement officials and other critics eventually countered those claims. Mr. Shields was ordered to leave the disaster site with his untrained dog, they said.
A book about his alleged exploits in lower Manhattan — “Bear: Heart of a Hero” — was also disputed after its release by the book’s co-author, Nancy West, who eventually denied much of the information contained in the book.
Mr. Shields’ attorney maintained that his client had assisted in the rescue efforts, stating there was a video posted online showing rescue workers speaking about the efforts of Mr. Shields and his dog.
”There is certainly evidence that Bear was successful in finding some of the victims, and there is a tape on YouTube,” Mr. Marks said, referring to the Internet video site.