Lakewood – LA Times – What is going on? A Little Fraud, Perhaps?

Getty Images Lakewood1-0

Raids in New Jersey town target ultra-Orthodox Jews accused of welfare fraud. ‘What is going on here?’

 

LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-new-jersey-orthodox-20170923-story.html

It was the dramatic kickoff of a series of well-publicized raids that since late June have netted 26 suspects on charges of stealing $2 million in government benefits. Prosecutors say that the suspects understated their income to get free healthcare, food stamps, rental subsidies and other benefits.

All of those arrested — 13 men and 13 women — were ultra-Orthodox Jews. The charges have tapped into a well of festering hostility toward an insular and eccentric minority.

nce a backwater at the edge of New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, Lakewood is now home to one of the largest concentrations of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. They are a fast-growing population with a high birthrate; the population of Lakewood has exploded from 45,000 in 1990 to more than 100,000 today. Many of the newcomers are from large families priced out of Brooklyn by gentrification.

At first glance, little sets Lakewood apart from any number of other suburban communities on the fringes of the New York metropolitan area. But the differences are there. Signs are commonly in Hebrew and Yiddish. The Shop-Rite has closed and was replaced by Glatt Gourmet, a kosher supermarket. New subdivisions have Jewish-themed street names, like Hadassah Lane.

Like the Amish, these strictly observant Jews are instantly recognizable by their modest dress — the women in long skirts and wigs that cover their hair, and the men with yarmulkes or black fedoras and tzitzit, the strings hanging out of their shirts that remind them of their religious obligations. Instead of buggies, though, they mostly drive SUVs or minivans to fit large broods of children.

Around New York, there are a handful of similar towns that are dominated by ultra-Orthodox Jews, but only in Lakewood have federal and state authorities laid down the gauntlet so definitively.

Many young families are heavily dependent on government benefits. Couples marry and bear children young, usually in their early 20s while the fathers are full-time students in religious schools, the mothers working part-time doing office work.

With five or more children, many of them with special needs — a result attributed to women having multiple births until late in life and genetic disorders in a relatively closed population — families cannot survive without government assistance, especially to buy health insurance.

In Lakewood, 65,000 people — more than half the town’s population — are on Medicaid, the government health program for low-income families, according to state data. Lakewood has more children with two parents receiving government benefits than any other municipality in New Jersey, including large, chronically depressed cities such as Newark and Camden. A report by the Asbury Park Press found that Lakewood had received 14% of the money from a $34-million state fund for catastrophic illnesses in children, despite having only 2% of the state’s children. It also found that the town had 29 times more grant recipients than any other town in New Jersey.

In 2015, the New Jersey state controller’s office flagged the disproportionate sums of government money being absorbed by Lakewood. The town didn’t look poor by any conventional yardsticks of poverty.

“You have a family or six or seven or eight, somebody is paying the mortgage, somebody is paying the taxes, they have two cars in the driveway, they’ve got food for all the kids … and they’re reporting their total income at $10,000,’’ said Joseph Coronato, the Ocean County prosecutor who took the lead in the case. “You have to ask — what is going on here?’’

In one case unsealed by the court in June, a couple with six children are alleged to have reported their income at $39,000 per year — low enough to qualify for Medicaid — when in fact they were getting more than $1 million annually from a limited liability corporation.

Members of the religious community say that cases of deliberate fraud are rare. For the most part, they say, the couples caught up in prosecutions had failed to report money they’d gotten from parents who were either paying the tuition for children in private schools or helping with the mortgage.

“The rules are very confusing. You have to be a Talmudist to figure out which program treats gifts from family as ordinary income,” said Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, the Lakewood head of what is called the Vaad, a self-governing council for the ultra-Orthodox community.

People most often got in trouble with their Medicaid applications, motivated by their inability to afford market-rate health insurance, which he said ran as high as $30,000 annually for a large family. Several of the families have disabled children, he noted.

“None of these people used any of this welfare money for an extravagant lifestyle. They were struggling to make ends meet and trying to pay medical bills,” said Harold Herskowitz, a businessman who runs a toy store in Lakewood. He believes the prosecutions were motivated by hostility toward the ultra-Orthodox.

“I’m the child of Holocaust survivors; I don’t appreciate Jewish people dragged out in public early in the morning,” Herskowitz said.

The initial arrests in June received extensive news coverage, with television crews tipped off in advance to film the scenes of couples in handcuffs being led away. Following complaints, the prosecutors have made subsequent arrests more discreetly, but still the publicity rankles.

The case has tapped into a wave of hostility toward the community. Last month, somebody hung an anti-Semitic banner on a Holocaust memorial in Lakewood, and fliers were distributed on the windshields of cars with photos of those arrested under the caption, “Thieving Jews Near You.”

Under fire from many sides, the observant Jews of Lakewood are trying to burnish their reputation in New Jersey. They’ve hosted outreach programs between the community and the police — Bagels, Lox & Cops, as the meetings have been called. Other public programs have been designed to advise ultra-Orthodox families on how to stay on the legal side of public assistance programs.

Lakewood, about 50 miles from New York City, was a resort town for the New York elite beginning in the late 19th century, attracting luminaries such as Mark Twain and members of the Rockefeller family. Their fancy retreats were later turned into kosher hotels catering to working- and middle-class Jews, the town becoming an extension of the Catskills’ Borscht belt across the border in New York state.

In 1943, the Rabbi Aharon Kotler, a Holocaust survivor who fled Lithuania, picked the town for his Beth Medrash Govoha, a yeshiva — religious school — that is now one of the world’s largest with 6,500 students, all men. That would in turn attract other yeshivas, along with Jewish primary schools, kosher delicatessens and shops.

“It was an idyllic little town with a strong Jewish flavor,’’ said Aaron Kotler, the founder’s grandson and current head of the yeshiva, in an interview in his sprawling suburban ranch house, the walls proudly displaying oil paintings of previous generations of bearded rabbis. “My grandfather chose Lakewood because it was quiet, which is ironic because people complain the yeshiva has ruined the quiet.’’

Kotler describes Lakewood today as one of the most attractive destinations for young religious Jews to study and raise families, making the demographics similar to other university towns.

“I like to think of Lakewood as poor by choice,’’ said Kotler.

The community has shown itself to be unusually adept at navigating the intricacies of politics and government.

“Their lives depend on knowing everything about how Section 8 [subsidized rental housing] works and getting into WICs,” the government Women, Infants and Childrenfood assistance program, said Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at Queen College who has written several books on the community.

Politically speaking, the ultra-Orthodox wield clout beyond their numbers, with adult members almost always turning out for elections and voting as a single bloc.

“They tend to vote like the Christian right, and they have learned to make their votes very important,” said Heilman.

In all of New Jersey, Lakewood had the highest concentration of Donald Trump voters in last year’s presidential election – 74.4%. With their children all in private religious schools, they are strong supporters of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary who has called for school vouchers. Charles and Seryl Kushner, the parents of Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner, are benefactors of the Beth Medrash Govoha yeshiva, and the rotunda of the school’s 2-year-old main building is named for them.

Ultra-Orthodox votes are even more important in local political races. They have installed candidates who favor their interests on the Lakewood school board, township committee and zoning board.

Lakewood’s 30,000 ultra-Orthodox children are ferried to 130 private religious schools on public school buses — boys and girls separately, since they attend single-sex schools — while public schools with only 6,000 children, mostly Latino and African American, have been gutted by a lack of funding. (This is in part due to a quirk in New Jersey’s school financing formula that requires busing for private school students but reimburses the districts based on public school enrollment.)

Some 4,000 new units of housing have been approved in Lakewood in the last two years, making the township the fastest-growing municipality in New Jersey. Real estate developers catering to the ultra-Orthodox are carving new subdivisions lined with four- and five-bedroom townhouses for large families.

“When I moved here, there were trees. Now I wake up and I’m surrounded by high-density townhouses,” said Tom Gatti, a retiree who heads a coalition of senior citizens opposing the pace of new development in Lakewood. “Anytime you try to challenge anything the ultra-Orthodox are doing, they drop the anti-Semitic card on the table.

“They are not looking to assimilate into the community; they are trying to take over,’’ Gatti said.

The ultra-Orthodox Jews also face criticism from less religious and secular Jews.

“Being observant should, first and foremost, involve living and working ethically,’’ complained a hard-hitting editorial in the Forward, the Yiddish- and English-language Jewish publication based in New York. The editorial called the welfare fraud cases “a desecration of God’s name.’’

“It’s too simple to say that this is a problem with Jews,’’ said Heilman, the sociology professor. “It is not their Jewishness that has created the problems; it is the way they interpret the demands of being Jewish.’’

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Lakewood Welfare Fraud – Millions of Dollars – Arrests

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http://www.app.com/story/news/investigations/watchdog/2017/06/26/lakewood-welfare-fraud/424127001/

WATCH: WELFARE RAID IN LAKEWOOD Lakewood couples arrested this morning to appear in court | 0:44

LAKEWOOD — A prominent rabbi and several others were arrested in simultaneous federal and state raids Monday morning on charges related to alleged public assistance fraud on a scale rarely seen before in New Jersey, according to law enforcement sources.

Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, who runs the synagogue Congregation Lutzk and businesses linked to the synagogue, was taken into custody Monday and is facing charges of theft by deception in Ocean County Superior Court.

The investigation found an alleged scheme that “rival the most sophisticated of financial frauds,” the source said.

The Breskins are being charged with second-degree theft by deception for allegedly collecting $585,662 in public assistance benefits they weren’t entitled to, the prosecutor said in the statement.

Zalmen and Tzipporah Sorotzkin face the same charges for allegedly collecting $338,642 in Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8 housing subsidies and Supplemental Security Income, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The Nussbaums allegedly under-reported their incomes and failed to disclose money they received from a number of companies in order to collect Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance and food stamps between 2011 and 2014, according to a federal complaint signed by FBI Special Agent Michael Farina.

In that time, the Nussbaums allegedly collected $178,762 in public assistance they weren’t entitled to get. Read the full complaints at the bottom of the page.

The complaint against Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin accuses them of also under-reporting their incomes to collect Medicaid. Rachel Sorotzkin allegedly failed to report $1.5 million she received from a limited liability company when signing up for public assistance.

In the complaint, Farina wrote that Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin received more than $96,000 in Medicaid funds they shouldn’t have claimed.

Both couples face separate counts of conspiring to steal government funds, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office. The conspiracy counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain from the offense.

Also arrested in the sting headed by the FBI, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies were Zalmen’s wife, Tzipporah Sorotzkin, and married couple Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin. The three also face state criminal charges, according to a source close to the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. Their first appearance before a Superior Court judge is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

EXCLUSIVE: SCHI overcharged Lakewood, others by $340K

Four others were arrested Monday and are being taken to Trenton to face federal charges in U.S. District Court. They are Mordechai Sorotzkin, brother of Zalmen, and his wife, Rachel Sorotzkin, and Shimon and Yocheved Nussbaum. View the map below for the locations of the homes raided or attempted to be raided Monday.

“Financial assistance programs are designed to alleviate family hardships for those truly in need,” said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato in a statement. “My office gave clear guidance and notice to the Lakewood community in 2015 of what is considered financial abuse of these programs.

“Those who choose to ignore those warnings by seeking to illegally profit on the backs of taxpayers will pay the punitive price of their actions.”

Federal and state agents fanned out to the four Lakewood homes early Monday morning, mostly in black, unmarked cars. FBI agents repeatedly knocked on Rabbi Sorotzkin’s door just before 6 a.m, to no immediate answer. But he was in custody, along with the seven others, by 7 a.m.

Around the same time on Hadassah Lane, agents waited with the Nussbaums in their townhouse while the couple found someone to watch their children, one of whom was seen packing suitcases and boxes into a van parked in front of the house. The couple was then placed in a black law enforcement van.

The Lakewood residents are accused of taking advantage of multiple public assistance programs to defraud the government of around $1.3 million over the past few years, according to law enforcement sources.

“The investigation to date has found that government benefits fraud and income tax evasion in the Lakewood community is widespread,” said the source.

To continue reading click here.

 

 

 

A School for Special Needs Children and a Rabbi without a Conscience – Indefensible

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Lakewood rabbi pleads not guilty to stealing public funds from special needs school

NEW BRUNSWICK — A Lakewood rabbi who runs a school for children with developmental disabilities pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of stealing public funds for personal use.

Osher Eisemann, 60, the founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence in Lakewood, is accused of using a private fundraising nonprofit for the school to launder $630,000 in public tuition funds.

He was indicted last month on charges including theft, money laundering, corporate misconduct and misuses of government funds.

Eisemann, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to all charges before Superior Court Judge Benjamin Bucca in Middlesex County.

Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson told Bucca the state has offered a plea deal that would require a prison sentence of five years in exchange for Eisemann admitting to a second-degree charge of theft by unlawful taking. As part of the plea deal, Eisemann would also pay restitution, Robinson said.

Eisemann, of Lakewood, faces up to 15 years in state prison on the charges.

An attorney representing Eisemann, Lee Vartan, declined to comment after the brief court hearing. However, Vartan maintained his client’s innocence in a previous statement given to NJ Advance Media.

“Rabbi Eisemann has never taken any SCHI funds for his personal use, and we strongly deny that there was any ill intent in the use of SCHI funds,” Vartan said in the statement. “We look forward to the complete exoneration of both SCHI and Rabbi Eisemann in this investigation.”

In Lakewood, new scrutiny on ‘business as usual’ | Di Ionno

Schools, zoning, poverty rate pose questions about town powers

SCHI receives $1.8 million a month in public tuition from the Lakewood School District to teach students with special needs. Authorities said Eisemann took $430,000 of that money for a personal business venture, the clothing company TAZ Apparel, LLC.

Authorities said Eisemann also laundered an additional $200,000 of the funds in a scheme “intended to make it appear that he was repaying debts he owed to the school using personal funds.”

SCHI officials previously called the attorney general’s investigation “baseless” and said the school has a long history of providing a “superior level of services to meet the unique needs of severely-disabled, medically fragile, and socially-emotionally challenged children and youth adults.”

An attorney representing SCHI, Robert Rabinowitz, declined to comment after Monday’s arraignment.

Attorney General spokesman Peter Aseltine said the arraignment was held in Middlesex County because three of the districts that send children to SCHI are in the county: Highland Park, Edison and Monroe.

Eisemann is scheduled to be back in court on June 12.

Yiddishe Kinderlech – Need to Be Rescued from Education – E-rate??? NO!

 

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WHO IS USING THE E-RATE MONEY? 

As a follow-up to our previous post regarding the e-rate program, we thought we would post this picture. It tells the whole story.

If 500 Yiddishe Kinderlech need to be rescued from public schools, those not “rescued” are not going to benefit from e-rate dollars.

None of the children within the “Yiddishe” community, except perhaps the 500 in the public school system, really ever benefit from access to the e-rate dollars.

 

FBI Probe – E-Rate, Stating the Obvious

KJRaids ABC

How Could Wrongdoing Not Be Found, DA Zugibe?

LM Contributor

Anyone familiar with the ultra-Orthodox community would know that the children are not permitted to use the internet. They are barely permitted to use a library, except per-say one that has a wealth of religious information, texts, commentaries, and perhaps (perhaps) articles of recent scholars. But, only those limited to religion.

There is no math research. There is no science research. There is no learning about the moon and the stars and NASA on the sites available for such study. There is no internet access to Google and Yahoo and all of the many sites that non-ultra-Orthodox children use when they want to ask a question or find out information or G-d forbid sneak some peak at illicit pictures.

CHILDREN ARE DENIED ACCESS TO COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET, DA ZUGIBE! 

Ultra-Orthodox children do not use websites. They do not read “online” newspapers. Anyone who makes claims to the contrary is simply telling a broad untruth. The percentage of e-rate dollars scattered throughout the ultra-Orthodox community is simply not supported by the number of children within that community permitted to use those dollars for education…. roughly… ZERO!!! Continue reading

Millionaire Brooklyn Couples Stealing Millions in Benefits… Very Charitable of Them

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https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160927/bushwick/landlord-brooklyn-hasidic-snap-food-stamps-section-8

 

Brooklyn ‘Millionaires’ Busted for Stealing $1.3M in Benefits, Feds Say

 

WILLIAMSBURG — Three Brooklyn couples, including a landlord with properties all over the borough, were arrested Tuesday on charges of defrauding the government of $1.3 million worth of benefits.

Shlomo Kubitshuk, 38, and his wife Rachel, 39, Naftali, 40, and Hinda Englander, 41, and Leib, 39, and Devorah Teitelbaum, 36, were accused of lying about their income to the federal government as far back as 2001 in order to collect thousands of dollars worth of food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers and Medicaid.

“For over a decade, this ring of six defendants allegedly lied to city and federal officials about their financial status in order to obtain benefits that were meant for the needy,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The six were slapped with a multiple counts of conspiracy to steal government funds and theft of government funds, which carry a five and ten year maximum sentence respectively, court documents show.

In two separate complaints unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors said the six benefited from $457,000 in Section 8 vouchers to pay for NYCHA apartments, $130,000 in food stamps and $733,000 in Medicaid payouts.

“At a time when affordable housing is scarce and there is a waiting list for Section 8 vouchers, it is reprehensible that some New Yorkers went without so that these defendants could have still more,” said Department of Investigations Commissioner Mark Peters.

Shlomo Kubitshuk owns multiple properties across Brooklyn, according to prosecutors, including 56 Grattan, 98 Grattan St. and 177 Montrose in East Williamsburg, 327 Melrose St., 318 Melrose St. and 1436 Greene St. in Bushwick and 1144 Bergen St. in Prospect Heights.

The state had records of Kubitshuk taking in $560,000 in rental income in 2013, and in multiple applications for mortgages he said his assets were worth more than $2 million, prosecutors said.

His wife said she took in $300,000 in annual income through another LLC company on a 2013 credit card application, according to the complaint.

Despite that, the pair claimed only $13,409 a year in combined income for around a decade in order to qualify for federal subsidies, federal prosecutors charge.

Naftali Eglander, owner of a U.K. real estate company City Gate Estates Limited worth more than £600,000, and his wife Hinda disclosed only $15,858 in combined annual income between 2001 and 2013, prosecutors said.

Finally Leib Teitlebaum, president of the online jewelry company www.glitzs.com, professed to earn about $1.2 million a year in a 2006 credit application, according to the state, yet disclosed far less.

“These defendants were millionaires stealing from the poor,” said Peters. “The defendants fraudulently concealed their wealth to obtain benefits.”

 

To read further click here.

DAINFO PROVIDED LINKS TO THE COMPLAINT:

https://www.scribd.com/document/325511086/Complaint#from_embed

https://www.scribd.com/document/325511081/Teitelbaum-Complaint

 

Tress Actually Doing the Right Thing?

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Ramapo Samuel Tress expected to resign, plead

http://www.lohud.com/story/news/crime/2016/09/01/ramapo-samuel-tress-plea-agreement/89716354/

Ramapo Councilman Samuel “Shmuel” Tress is expected as soon as tonight to resign from office and plead guilty to official misconduct, according to sources familiar with the case.

The plea deal, which would drop a felony charge, would likely enable Tress to avoid jail time in the case.

Tress, 71, a Democrat who won election in November despite a federal mail fraud conviction, is accused of voting for a zone change on a housing development he held a financial stake in — even though he had signed an affidavit stating he wouldn’t profit from his decisions as a Zoning Board of Appeals member.

Under the plea agreement, Tress must send a letter to Ramapo resigning from the councilman position he’s held since January. He also is expected to face a fine.

The Airmont Justice Court session is scheduled for 5 p.m.

Rockland District Attorney’s Office detectives arrested Tress in March on a felony count of first-degree offering a false instrument and the misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.

Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein declined comment on Thursday, as did Executive Assistant District Attorney Richard Kennison Moran. Tress’  attorney Michael Gilbert of Manhattan did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Samuel Tress

RELATED: Ramapo candidate is a felon, lives in NJ

The resignation would end Tress’ short career as an elected official. Tress won election to a four-year term in November running with Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Democratic Councilwoman Brendel Logan-Charles. He succeeded Democrat Daniel Friedman, who lost a September 2015 primary after he lost community support following a falling out for his criticism of St. Lawrence.

The all-Democrat Town Board would be tasked with appointing someone to fill the open seat.

Tress was a longtime member of the Zoning Board of Appeals before running for town council. He admitted to The Journal News in October 2015 that he owns a home in Lakewood, New Jersey, but claimed he spent most of the week in an Kearsing Parkway apartment in Monsey. He is the CEO of East Morgan Holdings, a Lakewood, New Jersey-based remediation company.

Court records show Tress pleaded guilty in December 2004 to a felony charge in a federal fraud case. He admitted he falsely assumed an identity to obtain a home mortgage loan from a bank in connection with the purchase of a home in Spring Valley. He was sentenced in March 2005 to three years of supervised release.

Tress’s recent arrest came after the District Attorney’s Office detectives scrutinized his ZBA vote on May 4, 2015, to approve eight zoning variances for what was then a single-family house at 142 Blauvelt Road in Monsey. The grassroots political party Preserve Ramapo provided the prosecutor’s office with more than 100 pages of documents on Tress.

Tress on May 14, 2015, had filed a disclosure affirmation with the town asserting that he had not and would not engage in any activity that would provide a personal or pecuniary gain to himself in relation to his duties as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, prosecutors contend.

Tress denied to a Journal News reporter that he profited from the ZBA approval.

Documents obtained by The Journal News before the arrest, however, showed Tress and his wife contracted to sell the single-family house for $500,000 to builder Samuel Wettenstein of Spring Valley in May 2013. Wettenstein obtained a demolition permit from Ramapo for his plan to build three condominiums and three accessory apartments on the property.

But the couple ended up with a 40 percent share of the property when the development stalled and Tress and his wife were still owed $150,000, according to town documents on the variance vote and a November lawsuit Tress filed against the buyer. The case was dropped last month, according to a document on file with the Rockland County Clerk’s Office.

Tress’s potential conviction adds to the list of politicians facing or sentenced for corruption charges in Rockland County, where District Attorney Thomas Zugibe’s office is part of an anti-corruption task force working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.