More Couples Arrested for Welfare Fraud in Lakewood

http://nypost.com/2017/07/06/welfare-scam-deepens-as-six-more-couples-are-arrested/

Welfare ‘scam’ deepens as six more couples are arrested

Six more couples were busted for alleged welfare fraud in Lakewood, NJ, officials said Thursday, adding to a growing list of suspected cheats from that shore town.

FBI agents and investigators with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit knocked on doors at about 6 a.m. on Thursday, handing over charging documents and court dates for them to appear between now and Tuesday.

The most recently arrested are accused to scoring nearly $400,000 in elaborate schemes to get Medicaid, food and home energy benefits when they weren’t eligible for them.

“The nature of the criminal events investigated and basic charges allege that the defendants misrepresented their income, declaring amounts that were low enough to receive the program’s benefits, when in fact their income was too high to qualify,” according to a statement from Ocean County prosecutors.

“The investigations revealed that the defendants received income from numerous sources that they failed to disclose on required program applications.”

Ocean County prosecutors charged 14 Lakewood residents last week, accusing them bilking taxpayers of more than $2 million.

The 12 newly named defendants were:

  • Eliezer and Elkie Sorotzkin, 33 and 31, were accused of wrongfully collecting $74,960 in Medicaid funds between January 2011 and December 2013.
  • Samuel and Esther Serhofer, 45 and 44, allegedly pocketed $72,685 in Medicaid between January 2009 to December 2013.
  • Yisroel and Rachel Merkin, 37 and 34, are suspected of improperly taking home $70,557,51 in Medicaid, food and home energy benefits between January 2011 and December 2014.
  • Jerome Menchel, 33, and Mottel Friedman, 30, were accused of wrongly scoring $63,839 in Medicaid and food benefits between January 2011 and July 2014.
  • Tzvi and Estee Braun, 35 and 34, were busted for allegedly ripping off $62,746.74 in Medicaid, food and children’s medical benefits between January 2009 and December 2013.
  • Moche and Nechama Hirschmann, 30 and 27, are suspected of wrongfully collecting $53,418.39 in Medicaid and food benefits between January 2011 and December 2015.

A rep for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office declined to say if the defendants know each other or worked in concert.

Religion is Not the Issue in Lakewood – Why Whitewashing is Damning to All Jews

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/becoming-every-brothers-keeper/

Becoming Every Brother’s Keeper

All humanity descended from one family.

“And in this original familial relationship resides our profound responsibility to one another. The recitation of the generations of Adam trumps the golden rule as the “greater principle” because it clarifies the subject of the ethical imperative. “Let there be no mistake,” the begetting seem to say. “The ‘neighbors’ for whom you must care are not only the people around you, but the entirety of this large, unruly human family from which you are a lucky, and burdened, descendent. Each member of this family is your ‘brother.’ And none, therefore, are you free to abandon.”
This section of the Torah, the recitation of the generations of Adam, thus challenges us to allow God’s question to Cain–“Where is Abel, your brother?”–to reverberate throughout the millennia. It demands that we pose this question with the awareness that, in the eyes of Bereshit, all humanity is descended of one family. It compels us to pay attention to the words of the question itself–to recognize that it is not only a query about Abel’s whereabouts, but also an insistence that he is our brother.
As common descendants of Adam, we are not free to shed our brotherhood with Abel. We are simply not at liberty to allow the gulfs created by national, cultural, linguistic, religious, or racial differences to obscure our responsibility to those who are hurt or violated. Instead, we must step up to this haunting question whenever it is asked and answer resolutely: “I am my brother’s keeper.””

Dear Reader:

The following is a comment received by one of our readers. We are bothered by the comment because, whether intentionally or otherwise, it defines all ultra-Orthodox Jews by the actions of those who chose to defraud the system.

It then by association defines all Jews by those very same ultra-Orthodox criminals and the various Rabbis, websites (OJPAC) and other Jewish spokespeople who try to justify or whitewash the criminal behavior. It is our belief that if you paint the truth and the lies with the same white paintbrush you taint the good while you are trying to shade the bad.

To the author of the initial post below: there are exemplary, devout, honest and descent members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. Simply because they dress the same as those accused of committing crimes, does not mean that they themselves don’t find those very same crimes unthinkable and the very same people reprehensible. Your commentary makes broad generalizations, that we agree are difficult at times to avoid.

While sadly we can’t disagree with much of it, we would be remiss if we did not point to a religion which, when not taken to extremism, when taken as written is rich in charitable random acts of kindness, laden with spectacular cultural history, sincere in its piety and actively trying to achieve a high moral standard and ethical character. 

We are here because we believe that we must be our brothers’ keepers. That means reporting the good with the bad. We may miss our mark on reporting the good, but it is there nonetheless.

Finally, you are right in commenting that religion is not the issue. Criminal behavior is the result of those committing the crimes. Judaism does not allow it. As such, please do not view the entire community by the acts of some.

 

Religion not the issue in Lakewood welfare raids: So much for ‘Thou shall not steal’

by Steve Trevelise June 28, 2017 12:26 PM
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So much for “Thou shall not steal.”
As more and more arrests come out of Lakewood’s Jewish community for people accused of cheating the government out of various benefits, it makes you wonder how adherent these people are to their religion in the first place — as opposed to the “golden calf” of government.
LAKEWOOD WELFARE RAIDS
NEW:Hundreds attended Lakewood meeting warning of welfare fraud risk
Lakewood welfare fraud raids: Six more people scammed another $700,000, authorities say
‘Hundreds’ of Lakewood residents scrambling after welfare fraud raids, report says
Deminski: Zero excuse for any welfare cheats in Lakewood
Lakewood welfare fraud: It’s too easy, and not just Orthodox Jews to blame
Isn’t the belief of any religion to trust God that he will provide for you? What happened to Psalm 23 — “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want?” As someone who grew up in Hudson County, I’ve seen people cheat the system all my life, but you wouldn’t think that members of a religious community would be cheating the government out of several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t they answer to a higher authority?
So why would religious residents of Lakewood cheat the government? To maintain the expense of their religion, of course. Or so says Duvi Honig of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce to the Asbury Park Press:
“The pressure of the community overhead — especially the (cost of) private schooling is unsustainable,” “People are forced to find ways to bend the system.”
He later told New Jersey 101.5 he was talking about using legal loopholes, not breaking the law. But no religion should force you to find ways to bend the system — and the truth is, this isn’t about the religion. It’s about the people who broke the law. To blame the religion is an insult to all those people who worship and who don’t steal.
What these people are accused of doing had nothing to do with their religion, and hopefully their religion will have nothing to do with it at their trials.
What’s going to be interesting is if they are convicted and must serve time. How much will the prison system conform to their beliefs? I’m guessing the government will find ways to get it done much cheaper.
More from New Jersey 101.5:

Lakewood, New Jersey – Making the News… 11 Things to know… and When Will they get to Rockland County?

11 things to know about Lakewood, suddenly the newsiest town in N.J.

 

To read the article as written click, here.

Lakewood – Parents – Families Panic, oh no! They are Getting Caught…

Lakewood welfare: Half of children get assistance; families panic after arrests

 

But one statistic stands out among all other municipalities in the state. There are 10,000 more children in households with married couples in Lakewood receiving food, income or state aid than the next closest town.

Of the 43,600 children under 18 years of age, 18,200 with married parents receive government assistance. Newark, the largest city in the state, is second with 7,800 families receiving aid, according to the Census Bureau’s 2015 5-year average American Community Survey.

That poverty indicator is telling in two ways: Lakewood has a strong family tradition with many of it residents living in a two-parent household with young children, yet most of those families can’t make ends meet without government help.

Following the FBI’s public assistance fraud raids this week that saw the arrest of seven married couples with children, it may be an understatement that many township residents are in a “panic,” as termed by one of the leaders of the majority Orthodox Jewish community.

More: Lakewood welfare fraud: What we know so far

“It’s absolute panic,” said Rabbi Moshe Weisberg, a member of Lakewood’s Vaad, or Jewish council, about the mood in the town after this week’s arrests. “People are begging us for guidance.”

Rapidly growing Lakewood has more than 100,000 residents, up 15,000 from 2010, according to census records. The average Lakewood resident is 22.4 years old – making it one of the youngest towns in the state – and roughly 31 percent of people in town live under the poverty line, including retirees and single residents, according to the Census Bureau. The median household income in the town is just under $42,000, which is in the bottom 5 percent of N.J. towns, data shows.

Lakewood has a flourishing Jewish population, thanks in no small part to Beth Medrash Govoha, one of the largest yeshivas in the world, which now has about 6,500 students, according to Aaron Kotler, CEO of the yeshiva.

More: Lakewood welfare fraud: How did the scheme work?

Seven married couples were arrested in Lakewood this week on charges of welfare fraud, including a well-known rabbi of a congregation. He and his wife are accused of taking more than $338,000 in public assistance they weren’t entitled to receive. Five couples face state charges and the other two couples face federal charges. Combined, they are accused of stealing about $2 million in government assistance.

More: More Lakewood arrests: Raids continue in welfare fraud investigation

After the arrests, and considering so many Lakewood families receive some form of public assistance, the Vaad on Wednesday announced that it will hold seminars to educate residents about the rules for full financial disclosure when it comes to applying for and collecting public assistance.

“Federal and state social safety-net programs are meant for those in need, even those in need have rules and criteria that must be strictly followed,” the Vaad said in its statement. “To deliberately bend a safety-net eligibility rule is stealing, no different than stealing from your friend or neighbor.”

More: Lakewood welfare raids send some residents scrambling

Weisberg said that many young Jewish families collect public assistance as their families grow.

The men are often studying in yeshivas and have moderate incomes, if any income at all, he said. Census data shows that 3,302 people in Lakewood between the ages of 25 and 34 — 21.8 percent of everyone in that age range — are enrolled in school, most of those likely being yeshiva students.

Meanwhile, there is strong community pressure for men and women to have large families and send the children to private Jewish schools.

“The average family feels it an absolute necessity to send their children to private schools,” Weisberg said, adding that large families are also a part of Jewish culture. “They really want to build a large family with lots of happy children.

“Financial considerations come second,” he said.

To make ends meet, many of these families rely on public assistance, Weisberg said.

Duvi Honig, CEO of the Lakewood-based Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said for many Jewish families, collecting public assistance is almost an inevitability.

“People have such overhead that they don’t have a choice,” Honig said.

More: Lakewood rabbi, others arrested in alleged million-dollar welfare fraud

Honig and Weisberg condemned the alleged assistance fraud but acknowledged that some residents are tempted to take more welfare than they’re entitled to get.

“There are bad actors and bad apples,” Weisberg said. “A lot of this is not, most of this is not.”

Weisberg added that the vast majority of people reaching out to the Vaad after the arrests are concerned about what they termed as minor discretions in their public assistance applications, not people involved in a large-scale welfare fraud scheme.

Some of the minor discretions Weisberg mentioned are not reporting cash gifts or school tuition received from family members.

“These are families under stress,” he said. “Regrettably, people are a little loose with it.

“Until the hammer falls, people are lax about it.”

The hammer is expected to keep falling in Lakewood.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

Benefits Fraud – We Know For Certain it is Also Rampant in East Ramapo, Kiryas Joel, New Square, Crown Heights…

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How Benefits Fraud Scam Spread So Widely In Orthodox Town

“One thing is for sure: Many people in Lakewood were aware of the scams, if not of the specifics. In 2015, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office met with Lakewood residents to discourage government assistance fraud.

Flyers warning about the practice were also posted at a local synagogue.

“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,” Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said in a statement at the time.

Since news of the arrests spread, there have been ominous signs that even more people could be involved. Hundreds of people have called local officials, inquiring if there would be amnesty for those who admit lying about their incomes, and the APP reported that Ocean County authorities have been swamped with calls from public assistance beneficiaries seeking to stop receiving benefits.”

Read more: http://forward.com/news/375963/how-benefits-fraud-scam-spread-so-widely-in-orthodox-town/

 

Lakewood Vaad on Welfare-Fraud, Never an Excuse for Dishonesty?

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http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/featured/1306906/just-statement-lakewood-vaad-welfare-fraud-related-arrests.html

JUST IN: Statement From The Lakewood Vaad On Welfare-Fraud Related Arrests

The following is a statement from the Lakewood Vaad:

We are saddened beyond words by the arrests of seven couples in our town. As firm believers in the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ we suspend judgment until the disposition of these charges, and are comforted knowing that our judicial system is an able arbiter of justice.

Regardless of the outcomes of these cases, we have, in our view, a valuable teaching moment that cannot be wasted.

There is no such a thing as “justified” theft. Federal and State social safety-net programs are meant for those in need, even those in need have rules and criteria that must be strictly followed. To deliberately bend a safety-net eligibility rule is stealing, no different than stealing from your friend or neighbor.

We would all do well to redouble and triple our efforts in our communities, reminding each and every one of us that there is never any excuse for dishonesty in any form. Let us take this moment to speak openly of these matters, from the pulpit, in the classroom, and by parents at the dinner table, so that this tragic but necessary learning moment is not lost.

In the days ahead we will help launch a set of intensive educational programs that can ensure that such does not happen again, and will invite the public to participate in these timely programs.

Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg on behalf of The Lakewood Vaad

 

Holding Ourselves to a Higher Standard – Don’t Dress the Part if You Are Not Meeting the Associated Standards – Lakewood

How Crimes Committed by Those Dressing the Part of Piousness Endanger The Lives of All Jews

There was a rabbi many years ago who explained to his congregant in response to a specific question that when an outwardly religiously observant Jew and a non-Jew are doing business, if they choose to meet at a non-Kosher establishment, non only should the the Jew not eat; but he should remove his kippah and hide his tallit lest he be viewed by others as a piously dressed man eating non-Kosher food. In other words, the Rabbi felt that the outside perception of piousness should engender pious behavior. The Rabbi further commented that if a Jew’s appearance did not mesh with his actions and behaviors it would tarnish Judaism for everyone.

Apropos a series of comments we received today in reference to an article we posted about the FBI Raids in Lakewood, one of our loyal contributing readers provided us with a link to an op-ed article posted in Yeshiva World News. We think it speaks to what LostMessiah has always held as its fundamental purpose: to raise the standards of behavior within the Jewish world by exposing those for whom morality, law and ethics are inherently challenged. -LostMessiah 28.6.17


Op-Ed: When Will We Start Following The Law And Start Avoiding The Colossal Chillul Hashem?

For the second time this week, the FBI arrested Frum people in Lakewood, NJ in a federal and state crackdown on public assistance fraud in the Orthodox community.

On Monday, three couples were arrested. The FBI warned that the arrests were just the beginning of what appears to be multiple waves of arrests.

On Tuesday night, the FBI took another three couples into custody.

All are being charged with public assistance fraud including Medicaid, food stamps, Section 8, and other government assistance programs, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.

Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty – and calling people guilty isn’t the purpose of this op-ed.

Possibly as bad as the actual chillul hashem, and the actual crime, is how many people fail to look at the bigger picture here. Many are complaining that the FBI notified the media ahead of the arrests so they can make a “photo-op” out of it. Ignorance is an understatement, as this is what the FBI always does when there are multiple arrests, especially high-profile arrests. Did it ever dawn upon people that perhaps the purpose of the photo-ops are to warn others to stay clean and not break the law, or they too will end up with their photos splashed on the front covers of every newspaper?

In reality, it seems that the FBI has already accomplished whet they hoped to do by the exposure of the arrests. It has been reported that in the past two days, hundreds of Lakewood residents called township leaders asking how they can avoid arrest or get amnesty for past use of government programs which they aren’t legally able to take.

Ocean County Social Services received dozens of phone calls from people looking to cancel their public assistance or update their income information.

People may not be aware of this, but more than 10,000 anti-Jewish comments have already been posted on social media since the arrests were announced on Monday morning. TEN THOUSAND. That is a very big number, and it is simply horrifying.

Perhaps it might pay to read the following story of Rav Shimon Schwab ZATZAL, and hopefully law-breakers will take heed and stop endangering the lives of Jews in America.

Many years ago, a shameful scandal erupted in the Jewish community centering around a Jewish businessman who was put on trial for embezzlement. At that time, influential members of the embezzler’s community approached Rav Shimon Schwab with a plea that he do what he can to prevent the man from going to prison. Rav Schwab became extremely agitated, and he pointed out to the petitioners that the man’s behavior, which was so widely publicized in the media, caused a tremendous chillul Hashem, and that the man had became a virtual rodef, a threat to the lives of Klal Yisrael.

He told the visitors outright that the embezzler deserved to sit in prison for a long time. He pleaded with them to give the embezzler a message – that he should shave off his beard and take off his yarmulke when appearing in court, because by displaying these signs of his religious affiliation, he would be making a new chillul Hashem every day on the evening TV news and would be a living disgrace for the Jewish people.

It’s high time that people stop doing things illegally. People love to complain that “they are picking on us”. Yes they are. And for good reason. We are held to a higher standard. We are the Am Hanivchar. Let’s live up to that title, and not have ourselves embarrassed and plastered all over the news. Enough is enough. It’s 2017 and everything goes viral in seconds. Social media ignites in a heartbeat with hatred against Jews. Why feed fuel to the fire that is clearly burning?

http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/featured/1305770/op-ed-will-start-following-law-start-avoiding-colossal-chillul-hashem.html