William E. Rapfogel, the Modern Orthodox former CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the New York City Jewish community’s anti-poverty arm, pleaded guilty this morning to grand larceny, money laundering, tax fraud and offering a false instrument for filing.
William E. Rapfogel, left, and Rabbi David Cohen, right
Last updated at 12:34 pm CDT
Rapfogel, Rabbi David Cohen Plead Guilty
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
William E. Rapfogel, the former Modern Orthodox CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the New York City Jewish community’s anti-poverty arm, pleaded guilty this morning, Newsday reported.
Rapfogel stole more than $7 million from the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty before he was fired in August.
He was the Met Council’s CEO and president of its board from 1992 until August.
He and a gang of co-conspirators – including haredi Rabbi David Cohen, also a former Met Council CEO and an on-staff consultant at the anti-povery agency until his role in the scandal was revealed last year– stole at least $7 million from the anti-poverty nonprofit. They used a small portion of the stolen money to support New York politicians they sought to influence and kept the rest – millions of dollars – for themselves.
Cohen – who also was the CEO of Chevra Hatzolah, the haredi volunteer ambulance service, until he resigned in September of last year due to his role in the Met Council thefts – pleaded guilty to felony charges today.
In December, the Met Council's Breslov hasidic insurance broker Joseph "Yossi" Ross, who also plays key roles in Breslov charities, pleaded guilty to grand larceny and money laundering in the Met Council thefts. The terms of his plea deal were sealed.
Rapfogel’s plea deal with the New York State Attorney General's Office saw him plead guilty to grand larceny, 2nd degree money laundering, 3rd degree tax fraud, and 1st degree offering a false instrument for filing. The deal reportedly calls for him serve only 3 1/3- to 10-years in prison and pay about $3 million in restitution.
All of that $3 million is being raised from Rapfogel’s friends in New York’s Modern Orthodox community. Last week Failedmessiah.com reported that $1.7 million of that amount had already been raised.
Rapfogel was arrested in September and was charged with grand larceny, money laundering, criminal tax fraud, conspiracy, falsifying business records, and offering a false instrument for filing.
As FailedMessiah.com was the first to report, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has fired at least five key mid-level staffers over the past several weeks due to the inability to pay their salaries and, despite claims to the contrary, cut back its Passover food programs and other services in the aftermath of Rapfogel’s thefts’ exposure.
The nonprofit’s board – many members of which are among the city’s wealthiest Jews – was criticized by state regulators for lax oversight and mismanagement as a result of the Rapfogel scandal and the organization’s government funding was cut off for a period of weeks while safeguards were put in place to prevent further thefts.
So far, none of these board members – except for Rapfogel – have been indicted.
After today's guilty pleas, New York State Attorney general Eric Schneiderman lashed out at Rapfogel and Cohen.
"These defendants abused positions of trust to steal millions of dollars from a taxpayer-funded charitable organization -- one that is dedicated to serving New York City's poor," Schneiderman reportedly said in a statement.
Rapfogel's plea deal as a downloadable PDF file [hat tip to Sfek Sfeikah for sending it to me]:
Update 11:15 pm CDT – The Long Island Press reports that Cohen, who is now 70 years old, admitted to stealing $650,000. He was ordered to pay that back as restitution before he is sentenced on July 9. He will receive a sentence of between 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 years in prison.