Hasidic school to pay $8 million after admitting federal fraud
New York State’s largest private Hasidic Jewish school stole millions of dollars from various government programs in a one-year fraud, the school acknowledged in federal court documents filed Monday.
The school’s operator, Central United Talmudical Academy, which serves more than 2,000 boys in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, admitted that they illegally took money out of government programs for school lunches, technology and child care. According to a deferred prosecution agreement filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, he admitted to setting up no-show jobs for some employees while paying them in cash and coupons to help employees qualify for welfare.
In total, the school agreed to pay $5 million in fines, up from $3 million already paid as part of the deal to avoid prosecution.
Assistant Director of the FBI’s New York Office Michael J. “Today’s admission makes clear that there was a pervasive culture of fraud and greed at CUTA,” Driscoll said in a statement Monday, referring to the school’s initials. , “We expect schools to be places where students are taught how to do things properly. CUTA leaders work their way to the contrary, creating multiple systems of fraud to deceive the government. Withdrew from.”
Federal officials said Monday that as part of the fraud, school officials took money to feed children and instead used it to subsidize parties for adults.
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Mark Mukasi, an attorney representing the school, declined to comment. Other school representatives did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.
The federal investigation into the school’s use of government funding stems from a more narrow criminal case in which two former school leaders, Elozer Porges and Joel Lowery, pleaded guilty in March 2018 to their role in a conspiracy to defraud the government.
Since that case, the school has changed its executive management team and developed a new set of controls, among other changes, federal officials said. As part of the deal, the school will also be under the supervision of an independent monitor for the next three years.
The Central United Talmudic Academy, an all-boys private religious school, featured prominently in a New York Times investigation last month that found Hasidic boys’ schools across the state receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding while denying their students basic education. had done. secular education.
According to a Times analysis, the Williamsburg school received about $10 million in government funding in the year before the pandemic. Its leaders, who are affiliated with the Satmar group of Hasidic Judaism, also operate several other schools in the state.
The Times found that there are more than 100 Hasidic boys’ schools in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, and they have received a total of more than $1 billion from taxpayer money over the past four years. They focus on providing religious education, most offer little instruction in English reading and math, and almost no classes in history, science, or civics.
In general, many Hasidic boys’ schools score lower on state standardized tests than any other school in the state, public or private.
In 2019, The Times reported, the Central United Talmudic Academy agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and maths to more than 1,000 students. Every one of them failed.
Rebecca Davis O’Brien contributed reporting.