NEWARK, N.J. -- Fred Parisi told a judge yesterday he was the victim of a smear campaign, insisting he was a New York City police officer at Ground Zero on Sept. 11 and is now raising money to help 9/11 rescue workers.
But Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Les Wade had a different description of Parisi: a fraud and a flight risk.
"What we have here is a con-man," Wade told Superior Court Judge Salem Ahto in Morristown, successfully requesting the judge hike Parisi's $100,000 bail. "His web of deceit is so large, it'll take time to unravel it."
Parisi, 40, who police say lied about his connections to 9/11, is charged with theft and failure to allow his business partner to access company money. Both charges are unrelated to Parisi's fundraising.
Parisi has raised as much as $20,000 with his 9/11 foundation, and investigators said they are reviewing the possibility of fraud. They also are looking into claims that Parisi raised $1,500 so his son could participate in an overseas baseball program. The money was never spent, and police want to know why, authorities said.
He faces impersonation charges filed by the U.S. Secret Service four years ago, authorities said. In addition, Parisi was charged last June with bilking a Jefferson pet groomer out of $81,000.
Ahto yesterday increased his bail to $250,000 and told Parisi he'd have to surrender any firearms in his possession if he posted bail and gained his freedom. He also cannot contact the business partner; Parisi is charged with denying him access to $235,000. Ahto told Parisi he'll probably want an attorney.
According to police records, Parisi is accused of cutting off his partner, Roy Jensen, from company funds by moving the money into bank accounts to which Jensen had no access, authorities said. Parisi remained last night at the Morris County Jail.
Police said Parisi was really a police recruit on Sept. 11, and the academy class was at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn for police driver training. He never responded to Ground Zero that day, authorities said, adding he was dismissed from the academy in November 2001.
Parisi, who was stood up by his attorney, said yesterday he did go to Ground Zero.
"I am a 15-year law enforcement veteran," he said, retelling the claims police dispute.
Sitting in the courtroom, his mother, Jean Street of Passaic County, refused to watch quietly, saying loudly to prosecutors, "These (the charges) are false." That attracted the attention of sheriff officers who ultimately made her leave the courtroom after she told one officer, "I have rights. This is America."
Parisi was told several times by the judge that he might want to have an attorney at his side before talking.
Authorities said Parisi has been trying to sell his Jefferson house, where he lives with his wife and three children, and is eyeing property in Florida, making him a flight risk.
Parisi's wife, Marsha, and his mother say they have pictures and documents to prove Parisi's claims. That includes a police logbook that lists his activities on Sept. 11, 2001.
A Star-Ledger review of the logbook for 9/11 found it doesn't include any reference to Parisi saving thousands of lives as he has claimed.
Bill Swayze may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 539-7910.