17 charged in $42 million fraud at Claims Conference
If we want to use the word shanda meaning disgrace and an embarrassment then the indictments by the US Attorney’s office in New York of individuals who committed fraud and stole over $42 million from the Claims Conference that disperses funds (from the German government) to elderly Holocaust survivors fits that description.
The fact that the professional staff of the Claims Conference alerted the FBI to the fraud in 09 thus enabling the FBI to conduct their investigation was the correct thing to do. The evidence appears to be that most of the crime surrounded the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn. Russian Jewish immigrants were a large part of the fraud including members of the professional staff of the Claims Conference.
Who knows the extent that some were recruited and duped into falsifying documents as they did? Surey some were bribed for kickbacks to the staff. It is a disgusting thing we witness and a stain on our community. I pray that justice will be swift and harsh for those who the district attorney is able to convict of these morally repugnant crimes.
And of course we know that anti-semites will exploit this issue. It comes down to greed. But it also comes down to the Claims Conference as well. What controls and mechanism should they have in place to protect the funds so that they go to the proper victims? When the Claims Conference staff says that the $42 million represented only a small percentage of the overall amount of money dispersed over the years, they are trying to excuse themselves and minimize the enormity of this crime. I simply cannot accept that kind of reasoning. Given the accusation that staff members of all levels in the organization participated in this fraud there has got to be an investigation of all levels of the Claims Conference
Whether this fraud extracted one percent or more makes no difference. It is a despicable crime and an embarrassment on us. Shameful! This fraud was going on since the 1990s! The justice system should take care of the criminal actions. But the Jewish community should conduct a thorough investigation to ferret out the incompetency of the leadership that enabled this kind of activity to go one unabated for almost two decades.
The professional staff and those who supervise them own this problem and are responsible for putting in place the proper mechanism to demonstrate why this could never again happen. That is the right thing to do. It is an act of Teshuva (repentance) that is needed now. It affects us all.