Seventeen people were busted for plundering a whopping $42.5 million meant to help survivors of the the Nazi Holocaust — and instead gave the cash to people who were not eligible by forging documents and getting kickbacks in return, federal prosecutors announced today.
Employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which administered the programs, were supposed to process and approve legitimate applications.
Instead, they allegedly approved over 5,500 fraudulent ones over the past 16 years and was first discovered in December 2009, resulting in payouts to applicants who did not qualify for the programs.
The feds said that in exchange, these insiders kept a portion of the money for themselves.
“If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference, which every day assists thousands of poor and elderly victims of Nazi persecution,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
“Sadly, those victim funds were themselves victimized. Without the extraordinary cooperation of the Claims Conference in ferreting out this alleged scheme to defraud them, it never would have been exposed.”
The feds said ringleader Semen Domnitser signed off on fraudulent applications from more than 4,000 people. Overall, 450,000 applications that are legitimate have been processed.
Five of the 17 people arrested had been busted in the past; four of them are currently cooperating with the FBI against Domnitser and the others.
The fund was set up so that victims can claim payments if they can show they survived the Holocaust.
By BRUCE GOLDING
Last Updated: 3:15 PM, November 9, 2010
Posted: 2:09 PM, November 9, 2010
Source: The New York Post