Charges have been announced against nine more participants in a scheme that defrauded programs that were established to aid survivors Holocaust survivors of of Nazi persecution out of over $57 million.
Thus far, 30 have been charged in connection with this scheme and the nine newly announced fraudsters include: Henry Gordin, Genrikh Kolontryrskiy, Viktor Levin, Ella Voskresenskiy, Zlata Blavatnik, Pytor Blavatnik, Yevgeniya Abramovich, Asya Galindo, and Lana Kagan.
New arrests include five additional former employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the “Claims Conference”), which administered the programs. The Conference is a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to those who fell victim of Nazi persecution during the Holocaust and administers funds from the German government, including “the Hardship Fund” and “the Article 2 Fund.” In order for someone to receive these funds they need to apply through the Claims Conference and employees of the Manhattan office process and confirm applicants that meet the specific criteria required for payments.
In exchange for kickbacks, those insiders arrested, who were supposed to process and approve only legitimate applications, are alleged to have knowingly approved nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications, resulting in payouts to applicants who did not qualify for the programs.
The Hardship Fund pays a one-time payment of approximately $3,500 to victims of Nazi persecution who evacuated the cities in which they lived and were forced to become refugees. Members of the conspiracy submitted fraudulent applications for people who were not eligible. Many of the recipients of fraudulent funds were born after World War II, and at least one person was not even Jewish. Some conspirators recruited other individuals to provide identification documents, such as passports and birth certificates, which were then fraudulently altered and submitted to corrupt insiders at the Claims Conference, who then processed those applications. When the applicants received their compensation checks, they kept a portion of the money and passed the rest back up the chain.
The Article 2 Fund makes monthly payments of approximately $400 to survivors of Nazi persecution who make less than $16,000 per year, and either (1) lived in hiding or under a false identity for at least 18 months; (2) lived in a Jewish ghetto for 18 months; or (3) were incarcerated for six months in a concentration camp or a forced labor camp. The fraud involved doctored identification documents in which the applicant’s date and place of birth had been changed. The fraud also involved more sophisticated deception, including altering documents that the Claims Conference obtains from outside sources to verify a person’s persecution by the Nazis. Some of the detailed descriptions of persecution in the fraudulent Article 2 Fund applications were completely fabricated.
Both funds were defrauded for over a decade by employees. To date it appears that at least 3,839 Hardship Fund applications were fraudulent, equating to a loss of around $12.3 million and around 1,112 fraudulent applications for the Article 2 Fund, equating to a loss of around $45 million.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As I said when the initial charges in this case were announced, my Office, working with our partners at the FBI, would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57 million from the Claims Conference, thereby diverting money intended for survivors of the Holocaust. With today’s charges, we have now identified 30 people who allegedly exploited a fund that is as symbolically important as it is necessary to its beneficiaries. We again thank the Claims Conference for their outstanding ongoing assistance in identifying the participants in this scheme” – Source.
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