Rockland County

Seven People, Including Rabbi, Arrested in $14 Million Rockland County Funding Scam: Feds

Federal funds were meant to help underprivileged children, authorities say

What to Know

  • Monsey and Kiryas Joel residents, including a rabbi, were arrested in connection with an alleged $14 million dollar rip-off, prosecutors say
  • The FBI arrested the seven for allegedly stealing money from federal school technology funding program meant to help underprivileged kids
  • The FBI said the scam was brazen because the suspects requested technology funding for Hasidic religious schools where Internet is banned

Seven Monsey and Kiryas Joel residents - including a rabbi - were arrested Wednesday in connection with an alleged $14 million dollar rip-off of a federal school technology funding program, federal prosecutors said. The FBI arrested the seven for allegedly stealing money meant to help underprivileged children.

Prosecutors said the suspects lied to claim they were serving as independent consultants and vendors to help obtain and provide telecommunication services to private religious school students across Rockland County. Federal dollars would come from the federal E-Rate program which is funded by the FCC. But investigators said the services were never provided with the seven allegedly stealing much of the money from 2010-2016. 

"This indictment is important not only because fraudsters should be held to account for their crimes, but also because the next generation of students should have access to telecommunication services, internet access, and related equipment, irrespective of their means and in spite of the fact that people like the defendants seek to line their own pockets at the expense of underprivileged children,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Simon Goldenbrener and Moshe Scwartz are accused of helping to run the criminal ring. Rabbi Aron Melber who work at a religious school in Rockland allegedly used his school to try to obtain over $1 million in funds – some which was then allegedly shared among members of the ring or used for purposes not included in the E-rate program.

"The suspects in this investigation allegedly used funding from a program designed to give underprivileged schools internet access to pad their own bank accounts," said William Sweeney, FBI assistant director in charge. "To add insult to injury, school officials, who see the day-to-day struggle to even find money for pencils and paper, were allegedly involved in the scheme."

The FBI said the scam was especially brazen because the suspects requested technology funding for Hasidic religious schools where students are often banned from using the Internet, computers and any other kind of technology.

In one case, over $500,000 in video conferencing equipment was ordered for a day-care center serving toddlers 2-4 years old. The FBI said that equipment order would “serve no real purpose for the student population.”

Also charged Wednesday, Peretz Klein, Susan Klein, Ben Kelin, Moshe Schwartz and Sholem Steinberg. They are expected to be arraigned in federal court in White Plains on the wired fraud-related charges.

Numerous attempts to reach those arrested and their lawyers were met with declines to comment. 

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