Four couples from Lakewood, New Jersey -- including a well-known local rabbi -- have been arrested for allegedly defrauding public assistance programs of more than $1.3 million in benefits, prosecutors said Monday.
At the heart of the charges is the allegation that they all, in one way or another, failed to report or otherwise concealed significant income that would have made them ineligible for the wide variety of assistance programs in which they had enrolled.
Rachel and Mordechai Sorotzkin face federal charges, as do Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum. The Sorotzkins allegedly obtained state Medicaid benefits that they did not qualify for, while the Nussbaums allegedly did the same with Medicaid, housing and food assistance benefits.
Seperately, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office filed state charges against Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin and Zalmen and Tzipporah Sorotzkin. (The relationship between the two Sorotzkin families was not immediately clear). Both couples allegedly underreported income to collect Medicaid, food, housing and Social Security benefits.
Zalmen Sorotzkin is the Rabbi of Congregation Lutzk in Lakewood.
"Financial assistance programs are designed to alleviate family hardships for those truly in need. My office gave clear guidance and notice to the Lakewood community in 2015 of what is considered financial abuse of these programs. Those who choose to ignore those warnings by seeking to illegally profit on the backs of taxpayers will pay the punitive price of their actions," Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said in a statement.
The FBI and several state agencies executed the arrests in the Lakewood area. Four of the suspects are expected to appear in federal court in Trenton later Monday. Others will appear in New Jersey Superior Court in Ocean County.