Federal prosecutors have charged 17 people with stealing $42.5 million from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), an organization that makes reparations to Holocaust victims.
Six of the 17 charged worked for the organization and allegedly approved more than 5,500 fraudulent applications and then divided the money between themselves.
Many of the people who cashed in on the bogus applications were born after World War II and one person was not even Jewish, according to prosecutors. All of them were from Brooklyn.
“Each of the defendants played a role in creating, filing and processing fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants – and dividing up the spoils,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk in a statement. “Funds established and financed by the German government to aid Holocaust survivors were siphoned off by the greedy, and not paid out, as intended, to the worthy.”
The defendants have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and some were additionally charged with money laundering and witness tampering. They face 20 years in prison for each count and fines ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.
The Claims Conference first suspected the fraud in December 2009, and immediately reported their suspicions to law enforcement authorities.
Here’s more from The New York Times:
The conspiracy was directed at two programs run by the claims conference…
One of the programs, known as the Hardship Fund, pays reparations to Jews who became refugees when they fled the Nazis; the majority of payments from the Hardship Fund went to people from the former Soviet Bloc countries who were had not under direct Nazi occupation, but who fled to escape the Nazi advance, according to the indictment. The fund pays a one-time payment of approximately $3,600.
The second program, called the Article 2 Fund, compensates survivors who lived in hiding, under a false identity, in a Jewish ghetto, or who were incarcerated in a labor or a concentration camp. This program provides monthly payments of approximately $411 to survivors who make less than $16,000 per year.