Un-kosher rabbi gets 27 months for defrauding goverment
By BRUCE GOLDING • New York Post
An admittedly un-kosher rabbi was sentenced this morning to 27 months in the slammer for an unholy fraud for which four fellow crooks walked free after getting their sentences commuted by then-Preisdent Clinton.
Rabbi Avrum Friesel -- who spent more than 11 years on the lam in Israel and Great Britain -- said he was "deeply ashamed" for breaking American civil law, which meant he also broke Jewish religious law.
"I feel very sorry for the things that I did that were not kosher," Friesel, 57, said in Manhattan federal court.
The gray-bearded religious teacher later turned and smiled to about two dozen supporters wearing black velvet skull caps and traditional Hasidic black garb.
After being extradited last year from London, Friesel, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme that defrauded various government programs of tens of millions of dollars during the 1980s.
The scam -- run by leaders of the Hasidic village of New Square in Rockland County -- secured more than $10 million in crooked Pell grants for ineligible students at a Brooklyn seminary, and also stole from the Small Business Administration and the federal Section 8 housing program.
Judge Barbara Jones cut Friesel a break from sentencing guidelines that called for up to 41 months in prison, citing his relatively minor role in the scam and his history of working with disabled children.
She also ordered him to pay $11 million-plus in restitution.
Only about $26,000 of the stolen money has been repaid, prosecutor Daniel Levy said.
Four co-defendants were convicted in 1999, but had their sentences commuted by President Clinton on his last day in office in 2001, shortly after his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, won nearly every vote cast in New Square during her election to the U.S. Senate.
A subsequent investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office found no wrongdoing.
The mastermind behind the scheme -- Chaim Berger, a Holocaust survivor and founder of New Square -- died while serving a six-year prison term in 2004.
A seventh defendant, Nathan Adler, remains at large.
[Hat Tip: Burich.]