In the latest step in what has be one of the most morally repugnant scams in recent history, a caseworker employed by the organization managing reparations to survivors of the Holocaust has pleaded guilty to her role in a 31-member conspiracy to steal $57 million from the settlement fund.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims was founded to portion out billions of dollars as part of a hard-fought court settlement between Holocaust victims and the German government.
The latest to plead guilty, Polina Breyter, 69, of Brooklyn, worked for the conference, along with 9 others, including a former director, involved in the scam.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the fraud, “an elaborate and intricate scheme to steal tens of millions of dollars intended for victims of one of the worst atrocities in history.” He added 20 of Breyter’s co-conspirators are still faces pending charges.
Shockingly, the fraud went on for nearly a decade before it was uncovered by others with the conference in December, 2009.
Two funds were linked to the scam: one, the Hardship Fund, made one-time payments of $3,500 to victims of Nazi persecution forced to become refugees.The conspirators submitted applications for people who weren’t eligible, such as people born after World War II. They also submitted fake names, fake application documents, or altered passports and birth certificates to make applicants appear that they qualified. The false applicants kicked a portion of the funds back to the conspirators. About $12.3 million was stolen from that fund.
The other fund involved–the Article 2 Fund–was established to make monthly payments of $400 to holocaust survivors who make less than $16,000 a year. Once again, the conspirators falisfied documents to make unqualified applicants appear qualified, or simply created people out of thin air. That scam netted $45 million.
Breyter faces nearly four years in prison and fines of up to $75,000. The alleged ringleader in the scam, Semen Domnitser, who was the director of both funds, is still facing charges.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 29, 2012