According to New York State auditors, one of New York City’s largest providers of special education services to preschoolers with disabilities, the haredi-owned Island Child Development Center in Far Rockaway, Queens, illegally diverted millions of dollars in taxpayer financing to a haredi girls’ school, haredi summer camps, and to a haredi kosher supermarket that is owned by the group’s officers and board members.
Massive Haredi-Run Special-Ed Fraud Exposed
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The New York Times is reporting that New York State auditors have uncovered a massive special education fraud. One of New York City’s largest providers of special education services to preschoolers with disabilities, the haredi-owned Island Child Development Center in Far Rockaway, Queens, illegally diverted millions of dollars in taxpayer financing to a haredi girls’ school, haredi summer camps, and to a haredi kosher supermarket that is owned by the group’s officers and board members.
The auditors were not able to confirm that any of the hundreds of children who were reportedly supposed to get individual instruction from the Island Child Development Center ever actually did, the office of State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli reportedly said.
Auditors subpoenaed over 13,000 checks and gave up counting after the first 1,549 checks they reviewed turned up $5.8 million in what they claim is fraudulent spending that took place over a six-year period. During that time, the Island Child Center billed the state and the city more than $27 million.
DiNapoli’s office said this is the largest misappropriation so far unearthed in its inquiry into New York State’s $2 billion special education pre-kindergarten program.
“To take advantage of taxpayer dollars designated for special-needs children and instead use these moneys for personal gain is reprehensible. New Yorkers deserve greater oversight of these programs,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
DiNapoli’s auditors say that Island Child paid nearly $2 million to the Bnos Bais Yaakov girls school. Rabbi Samuel Hiller, the assistant executive director of Island Child, is Bnos Bais Yaakov’s dean and one of its owners. Another $877,000 went to various Jewish summer camps, two of them tied to Rabbi Hiller, and more than $330,000 in nonpayroll checks went to Hiller himself.
Island Child also bought $344,000 in kosher food – including $73,000 from Super Sol, a kosher supermarket whose founder, Laurence Garber, led Island Child’s board. The special education pre-kindergarten program does not allow its money to used for food purchases.
Auditors found many other improper or fraudulent expenditures, including $200,000 in construction, $12,000 to two jewelers, $235,000 to credit-card companies, $44,000 in checks made out to “cash,” and nearly $200,000 in payroll checks to five fictitious workers.
The Queens district attorney’s office is reportedly reviewing the audit’s findings to determine if indictments should be issued.