Moral Low Ground


NY Orthodox Rabbi Samuel Hiller Indicted for Allegedly Stealing $12.4 Million from Disabled Pre-School Children

Queens County Court (David Shankbone, Wikipedia)

Queens County Court (David Shankbone)

Four New York men, including a rabbi, have been charged with stealing more than $12.4 million in public aid for disabled pre-schoolers and using the funds for personal purposes.

The four men appeared in a Queens courtroom on Tuesday to face a 42-count indictment on charges including grand larceny, identity theft and falsifying business records, Reuters reports.

The defendants were all connected to the non-profit Island Child Development Center in Queens, one of New York City’s largest providers of special education services for disabled pre-schoolers. They allegedly stole money intended for funding the center, which serves Orthodox Jewish children ages 3-5, and used it for home improvement, catering and funding a relative’s business. The center received more than $27 million in state funding between 2005 and 2012.

Rabbi Samuel Hiller, the center’s assistant director, and Roy Hoffman, its independent auditor, stand accused of stealing money to pay for home improvements. Hiller allegedly spent $30,000 on plumbing alone in his home, while Hoffman is accused of spending $300,000 on a home redesign project and $15,000 on his wife’s cosmetics business.

Hiller also allegedly diverted some $8 million to various unrelated Jewish schools and organizations, including $3 million to B’nos Bais Yaakov Academy, a private, all-girls Jewish school where he is the principal.

The state comptroller’s office said it uncovered the alleged fraud when the center’s former executive director, Ira Kurman, disappeared with its financial records prior to a routine audit in 2012. Kurman was charged with stealing $143,000 in center funds to make loans to various individuals, including a catering business which then gave him a discount on his daughter’s wedding and his son’s Bar Mitzvah.

A fourth defendant, center investor Daniel Laniado, is accused of liquidating more than $1 million in checks meant for the center at local check cashing stores.

In addition to the criminal charges against the four men, the Queens County District Attorney’s Office is seeking asset forfeitures totaling more than $11 million, of which $1 million has already been repaid.

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