9-11 survivor a fraud

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE -- He said he was a Sept. 11 hero. In fact, he's a fraud.

Daniel McCarthy said he was a New York City policeman who was buried for 79 hours under the rubble of the World Trade Center. He said his partner was killed when Tower I collapsed. He said he was found by a rescue dog. His story ran Friday on the front page of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Nevada Appeal.

"We have no record of anyone with that name, with that age, who is a member of the New York City Police Department," Thomas Kuchna, NYPD public information officer, said Tuesday. "As far as his partner goes, we have no history of anyone with the name of Dominick Imperatore in the NYPD."

Neither McCarthy nor his bride Eleni Golding could be reached at the Brooklyn telephone number he gave a reporter.

McCarthy and Golding were staying at Harrah's Lake Tahoe last week anticipating their wedding Thursday in Harvey's wedding chapel. McCarthy said they stayed as members of Harrah's Diamond Club, a privilege extended to frequent Harrah's customers.

"We know him as a customer and that's all," said Harrah's spokesman John Packer.

McCarthy called the chapel July 9 and told Harvey's wedding chapel owner David Beronio that, although he had considered Las Vegas, he'd decided he wanted to get married in Lake Tahoe.

"He said he was calling from the Poconos," Beronio said. "As we were making the arrangements, he happened to mention he was a New York City policeman who had helped evacuate the World Trade Center. I said, 'Oh really, did you get out OK?' 'Well, it was close,' he said. Then he told me his whole story. He said he'd carried a pregnant lady out on his back. He said he'd been on 'Dateline NBC'. The 'Dateline' was what got me."

Beronio called the newspaper, as is the chapel's habit whenever a notable person books a wedding there. Then he set up the ceremony -- $85 for the wedding, $50 for the reverend, $40 for the flowers -- which McCarthy paid for, said Beronio.

"What I can't figure out is why he did it," Beronio said. "I could see it if he wanted something for free, but we never offered to comp him. Nor did he ask."

Tribune City Editor Jeff Munson said the story appeared legitimate when he received the phone call from Beronio and a briefing from the reporter.

"The personality of Mr. McCarthy, as told to the reporter, was very intense and believable," Munson said. "We thought it was a legitimate story. It's a shame that someone would use an event as tragic as 9-11 for their own personal gain and benefit."

McCarthy said the couple was planning to spend a few days at Harrah's Las Vegas late this week after a trip back to New York City.

The chapel did give the couple the wedding video, valued at around $130, Beronio said.

McCarthy and Golding had gone over to the Douglas County offices on Kahle Drive to get a marriage license on Wednesday, the day before their wedding day.

"I remember he was extremely outgoing," Sondra Condron, chief deputy clerk, said. "I was busy with the auditors when he came in, so he didn't personally tell me about the World Trade Center. But he was chatting up the other staff and customers, so much that they began to crowd around him and shake his hand. She (Golding) was actually pretty quiet. She didn't say much."

That afternoon McCarthy and Golding gave an interview to the Tribune in the Diamond Lounge at Harrah's. McCarthy, marriage license in hand, explained he'd had to call his commander in Brooklyn for permission to do the interview.

After the story ran in Friday's paper, The Associated Press contacted the Tribune and questioned the claim that McCarthy had been buried for such a succinctly stated length of time. Their records showed that no survivors were found after September 12.

Newsday newspaper in Long Island, N.Y., conducted their own internal search and confirmed that neither McCarthy or Imperatore existed as NYPD police officers, according to reporter Sean Gardiner.

"Scams have been going on since 9-11 involving the media," Gardiner said. "This is not the first time that this has happened."

NYPD spokesman Sgt. Vincent Gravelli said the only recently active NYPD officer by the name of Daniel McCarthy was a 47-year old who retired before Sept. 11. Two others by that name left the job in 1990, Gravelli said Monday.

Kuchna, the NYPD public information officer, said the fact that someone would use a national tragedy like that is beyond belief to the people who actually experienced it.

"Out here, everybody knows somebody who was directly affected by 9-11," he said. "A former partner, and friend of mine, John Couglin, did die in the World Trade Center.

"I was just looking at some pictures of him this morning. I put one on my desk. This kinda stinks. I just hope that whatever this guy was after, free stuff or whatever, I hope it comes out."


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