14 arrested in New Jersey welfare fraud investigation


Fourteen people have been apprehended in police raids over 2 days in Lakewood, New Jersey, about an ongoing investigation, which has up to now exposed roughly $2 million in purported public-assistance fraudulent activity in the town.

On Tuesday night, six people were arrested in Lakewood, New Jersey, a community of roughly 101,000, almost 38 miles southeast of Trenton, the state capital. These arrests follow the state and federal raids of four residences and Monday’s arrests of four people on charges of $1.3 million theft in public assistance over the past couple of years.

Lakewood is New Jersey’s fastest-growing town and earlier this year exceeded 100,000 inhabitants. In the Census figures, 32 percent of people in this town live in poverty. The fast population growth of Lakewood is due to a flourishing Orthodox Jewish community.

All the six people arrested faced a charge of second-degree theft by deception, a state offense, based on a prepared statement from the Prosecutor’s Office in Ocean County.

The six individuals are accused of defrauding the government of just above $670, 000, as stated by the office of the prosecutor.

Those arrested on Tuesday were William and Faigy Friedman; Yitzchok and Sora Kanarek; and Chaim and Liatt Ehrman.

The Kanareks unlawfully amassed $339,002.56 in federal housing funds, nutrition aid, Medicaid and Social Security funds, as stated by the office of the prosecutor. The Friedmans collected $14,842.28 in housing funds, food, Medicaid and energy and the Ehrmans amassed $185,692.22 in Sandy relief funds, nutrition aid, Medicaid and utility assistance, as stated by the office of the prosecutor.

The former rabbi of Oros Yisroel was Yitzchok Kanarek. Oros Yisroel  was a school for special-needs students and closed in 2015 due to state and federal tax liens of over $295,000, based on public records.

On Monday, June 26, 2017, Shimon and Yocheved Nussbaum were arrested in Lakewood, New Jersey, about a public-assistance fraud scheme. Their apprehension was part of a bigger operation, led by New Jersey and federal authorities, which led to six more arrests that day.

Those arrested on Tuesday are accused of under-reporting their incomes during a period of many years to amass public-assistance benefits they were not eligible to get.

On Monday, a renowned rabbi, Zalmen Sorotzkin, who operates the synagogue Congregation Lutzk together with businesses associated with the synagogue, was detained. Included in Monday’s arrest is Tzipporah, who is Sorotzkin’s wife; Sorotzkin’s sister-in-law and brother Rachel Sorotzkin and Mordechai; Shimon and Yocheved Nussbaum; and Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin. The Nussbaums and Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin are facing federal charges in United States District Court.

Others are the Breskins, who are charged with second-degree theft by fraud for supposedly amassing $585,662 in public assistance benefits they were not eligible to, the prosecutor stated in the statement.

Zalmen and Tzipporah Sorotzkin are facing similar charges for allegedly amassing $338, 642 in Supplemental Security Income, food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing subsidies, as stated by the prosecutor’s office.

Rachel Sorotzkin and the Nussbaums and Mordechai face separate counts of plotting to steal government funds, as shown by a statement from the office of the United States Attorney. Each of the conspiracy counts carries a maximum possible penalty of up to 5 years behind bars and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain from the crime.

The investigation into the alleged offense started public-assistance around 3 years back and currently, makes up various state and federal law enforcement agencies. The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, the Social Security Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New Jersey Treasury Department and the state comptroller’s Medicaid Fraud Division all have been investigating.

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Amir Dawood

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