"…the monies raised in the name of these distinct charitable causes are deposited instead into one or more than 35 bank accounts controlled by Weingarten and Weiss, often not even in the name of the charity to which the donor contributed, and then freely exchanged among these different accounts, creating a vast slush fund that Weingarten then uses to pay hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of his and his family's personal expenses…"
Haredi Rabbi, Wife, Cronies Stole Millions Of Dollars From Israeli Charities, New York State Alleges
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A Brooklyn haredi rabbi, his wife and his top assistants stole "hundreds of thousands - if not millions" of dollars donated to Israeli charities, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman claims.
Schneiderman filed suit on behalf of the state against Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten, his wife Rivka Weingarten, two of Weingarten's principal employees, David Yifat and Simon Weiss, and 19 ‘charities,’ Courthouse News reported this morning.
Weingarten and his cronies preyed on a “vulnerable public's charitable instincts, and in particular the charitable impulses that many persons of the Jewish faith have for Israel" by using “deceptive and highly aggressive tactics to raise millions of dollars from donors," the suit says.
The donations were “ostensibly for Israeli charitable causes such as Emergency Medical Services programs and programs for terror attack survivors, cancer victims, the sick and the poor.
"The reality, however, is that the monies raised in the name of these distinct charitable causes are deposited instead into one or more than 35 bank accounts controlled by Weingarten and Weiss, often not even in the name of the charity to which the donor contributed, and then freely exchanged among these different accounts, creating a vast slush fund that Weingarten then uses to pay hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars of his and his family's personal expenses,” the suit alleges.
Weingarten and Weiss have allegedly withdrawn more than $42 million from those accounts since 2007, and have written at least $350,000 in checks made out to "cash.” The pair allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars from charity accounts to pay Weingarten's home mortgages, car loans, utilities and the costs of remodeling the Weingarten's second home. They duo also made large payments to themselves – including $120,000 paid to the duo on the same day.
How much of the money these charities raised actually got to Israel?
Not much, the state says. "Defendants appear to make only minuscule transfers of monies to Israel, where the charitable work they claim to support supposedly takes place.
"The actual activities defendants carry out in Israel are a mere shell compared to the impression conveyed by defendants' solicitations, which represent to prospective donors that the entity defendants operate robust networks of professionals who provide an array of services to needy Israelis. In reality, only two of the 19 entity defendants - Yad L'Shabbat and Hatzalah Shomron - are even registered in the State of Israel, and neither of these organizations are in good standing because they have failed to file required annual reports with the Israeli government…[the vast majority of Weingarten’s charities] "conduct no activity at all in Israel, and exist, if at all, only on paper as a vehicle through which Weingarten's fund-raising operation solicits charitable contributions from a generous public," the lawsuit claims.
Additionally, Weingarten’s and Weiss’s financial practices are "so convoluted and complex that even Weingarten and Weiss are unable to keep the entities' funds straight. Since 2007, the defendants have bounced at least 2,100 checks, saddling the charities with a staggering amount of overdraft fees - over $65,000 - constituting an inexcusable waste," the suit alleges.
Weingarten was subpoenaed in May and was asked to explain his “charities’ highly suspicious and irregular activity."
Weingarten reportedly pleaded the Fifth, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination more than 600 times, "refus[ing] to answer a single question about his fund raising operation," the suit claims.
After that, the state served Weingarten with an administrative subpoena to get documents related to the charities.
Weingarten filed a motion to quash it, arguing that producing those documents would violate his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself.
The state wants the court to bar Weingarten, his wife, Weiss, Yifat and the named charities from soliciting donations or conducting any other business or charitable activity in New York. It also wants the court to remove Weingarten, Yifat and Weiss removed as directors, and it want s the court to order disgorgement and restitution.
The alleged charities named as defendants in the suit are: Hatzalah Rescue of Israel Inc.; Shearim Inc., aka Shearin; Bnei Torah Inc.; Chesed L'Yisrael V'Chasdei Yosef Inc.; Yad L'Shabbat Inc.; Hazalah Shomron Inc.; Pulse Foundation Inc. aka Pulse; The Israel Leukemia and Cancer Society; Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael Inc.; Congregation Yad L'Shabbat Inc.; Shearim Hayad L'Torah Center for Hatzalah L'Shabbat and Chesed L'Yisrael Inc.; Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel, aka Zaka; Yaldei Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael.