BARNEGAT - A New Jersey man whose reputation as a survivor of the 2001 World Trade Center attack earned him thousands of dollars in donations may have misled people about his entire experience at Ground Zero, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds.
Yesterday, News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane investigated Charles Giles’ claim that he was rescued from the rubble of the North Tower, thanks in part to the efforts of a Port Authority police officer he identified as Mark Meier. Neither Giles nor Meier appear on any list of survivors, and officer Meier told News 12 New Jersey Giles’ story was untrue. “I never saw the person, never met the person; I was never inside the building,” Meier said.
But over the years, Giles hasn’t merely claimed to be rescued at the World Trade Center, he also claimed he was seriously injured, checked himself out of the hospital against medical advice to return to Ground Zero, then permanently ruined his health working at the scene for more than three months. Kane In Your Corner finds all of those claims appear to be suspect as well.
Among the injuries Giles claims to have suffered during the collapse of the North Tower was a serious leg injury that made it impossible for him to walk. In a 2009 video obtained by News 12 New Jersey, Giles also claims to have second-degree burns on his face, neck and back. But the emergency room report for Jacobi Medical Center, which Giles provided, says Giles “was at the World Trade Center when it fell and was exposed to dust to his eyes.” The only burns noted are first-degree, which the report says were caused by “second-degree exposure to the World Trade Center.” The report makes no mention of Giles being caught in the collapse of one of the towers.
Giles’ former employer, Citywide Mobile Response, a private ambulance service in the Bronx, also says Giles was not injured. “All of our employees returned without injuries.” CEO Warren Golden says all Citywide employees at Ground Zero, including Giles, were sent to Jacobi Medical Center for decontamination as a precaution and to “have their eyes flushed in case of debris.” Citywide also provided Kane In Your Corner with photos of its employees, including Giles, apparently uninjured and rinsing each other off. The company says those photos were taken on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001; Giles insists they must have been taken at another time.
Giles also claims he was assigned to work at Ground Zero for more than three months, totaling “497 hours” of exposure to toxins before he resigned his position at Citywide in early 2002. He blames that exposure for serious health problems, including asthma. Citywide’s CEO says Giles was actually there for less than one day. “None of our employees were sent back to Ground Zero after Sept. 11th,” Golden says. “With the exception of one female paramedic.” Giles insists Citywide is lying because he filed a worker’s compensation claim against the company.
Giles has also claimed his mounting medical bills cost him his home. In a 2010 speech, he told an audience bluntly, “I lost my home to foreclosure.” In fact, court records show that while Giles was behind on his mortgage payments, he actually sold his home voluntarily and made a profit on the transaction. Questioned by News 12 New Jersey’s Walt Kane, Giles said, “The house sold at short sale; I made nothing on the house. Actually, let me correct that, I may have made $1,500 on that short sale.” Short sales are, by definition, transactions in which homes are sold for less than the mortgaged amount and it is therefore impossible to make any profit on a short sale.
Giles downplays any inconsistencies in his story. “Why would I have to gain from exaggeration? Nothing,” he says.
But some say Giles had everything to gain, because his dramatic story helped him to receive thousands of dollars in donations. Susan McDermott, of the Barnegat First Aid Squad, says, “There were organizations that heard his story and proactively tried to help him with money.”
But McDermott also says the damage can’t simply be measured in dollars and cents. “When somebody does something like this, it makes us look at everyone out there and makes us wonder: are they lying or are they telling the truth?”