GIM Founding Member & Mod.
- Oct 15, 2012
A picture taken just after the liberation by the Soviet army in January, 1945, shows a group of children wearing concentration camp uniforms behind barbed wire fencing in Auschwitz.
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and helped orchestrate 5,500 bogus applications over 16 years. prosecutors charged.
"If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference," said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
The conference administers funds to those who fled Nazi persecution or survived concentration camps. Among those charged was Semyon Domnitser, a former director of the conference who was fired last February.
Officials said the scam operated by creating phony applications with false birth dates and invented histories of persecution to process compensation claims.
In some cases the recipients were born after World War II and at least one person was not even Jewish. When a phony applicant got a check, the scammers were given a cut, Bharara said.
Many of the applicants were recruited from Brooklyn's Russian community, prosecutors said. All those charged hail from Brooklyn. Four have pleaded guilty and are cooperating, officials said.
The Claims Conference contacted the FBI in December 2009 when it suspected the funds were being looted.
"It's disgusting that anyone would steal under these conditions," said the Claims Conference VP Greg Schneider.
He said the fraud went undetected despite regular audits. "They were very good at creating fraudulent documents," he said, noting less than 1% of money distributed was stolen.
One of the funds provides one-time payments of $3,600 to Jews who fled the Nazis. The other provides $411-a-month to poor Jews who spent time in a concentration camp, Jewish ghetto, or had to assume a false name to elude capture.
Funding comes from the German government and more than 600,000 claims have been processed worldwide.