Scammers steal millions from Holocaust survivors fund

November 9, 2010 3:19:55 PM PST
Heartless scammers are accused of stealing tens of millions of dollars that was supposed to help Holocaust survivors.

The alleged fraud had its tentacles in Brighton Beach and other parts of Brooklyn.

It is the betrayal in this alleged conspiracy, prosecutors say that is the most galling.

"More than $42 million that was intended for Holocaust survivors, instead found it's way into the pockets of corrupt employees," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

It was money that should have gone to thousands who faced endless torture and death in concentration camps and those who went into hiding and fled Nazi persecution to Russia.

"Survivors who suffered unimaginably cannot be hurt by this," said Greg Schneider, The Claims Conference Executive Vice President.

Executives with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, known as "The Claims Conference", have their headquarters in a Midtown building.

They uncovered a fraud involving two funds they believe had gone undetected for 16 years.

"If there was ever a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base and greed and criminal fraud it would be The Claims Conference," Bharara said.

The most alarming thing investigators say, is that the director of the funds for 10 years was arrested in the fraud.

"When a trusted administrator of a charitable fund is discovered with his hand in the till, it is unquestionably, a grievous betrayal the trust placed in him," said Janice Fedarcyk, FBI Assistant Director New York.

The two funds targeted include The Hardship Fund.

It was established in 1980 and makes a one time payment of $3,600 to victims of Nazi persecution who were forced to become refugees.

Investigators revealed that nearly 5,000 applications were found to be fraudulent, leading to a loss of $18 million.

The Article 2 Fund, established in 1992, makes monthly payments of $411 to survivors who went into hiding or were in concentration camps.

658 of these claims were fraudulent, resulting in a theft of $24.5 million.

"The recipient of the one time payment of $3,600 kept between a $1,000 and $1,800 of that and the rest of which was distributed and allocated among various conspirators," Bharara said.

Six of those charged worked for The Claims Conference.

Investigators say 11 other provided the forged documentation.

One working from an office in Brighton Beach where federal investigators were searching for evidence allegedly provided the forged documents to The Claims Conference.

"Each played a role in creating, filing, and processing fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants and dividing up the spoils," Fedarcyk said.

Claims Conference officials discovered the alleged fraud late last year.

"We will not in any way, ever, let this deter us from our mission of securing compensation for Holocaust survivors," Schneider said.

Do you have something to add to this story? Click here to contact Eyewitness News.