BACKSTORY Voting twice for Hillary A group of four New Square resident had been pardoned by then-Pres Bill Clinton after they were convicted of looting federal Pell grants programs of some $9 million. One defendant, a rabbi, fled to Israel to evade US justice. But Israel sent him back.
The Daily News headlined its story: "Double Take In Ballot Probe/Voters With Same Name and Birthday Show Cracks In New York System." The newspaper reported 26 illegal votes contributed to the 1,400-to-12 vote for Hillary Clinton among New Square Hasidic voters.
The Daily News story related that one registrant who voted in Brooklyn's Hasidic neighborhood of Williamsburg in 1996 also voted in the same election "forty miles away in the Rockland County Hasidic community of Monsey." The Daily News reported that during the election, there was evidence of similar voting irregularities in the Rockland County Hasidic community of New Square.
Illegal voting apparently contributed to an overwhelming 1,400-to-12 New Square vote for Sen. Hillary Clinton. The Daily News goes on to repeat its assertions that the voting irregularities appeared to extend beyond New Square into other Hasidic communities in (1) Brooklyn's Williamsburg, (2) Rockland County's Monsey and (3) Orange County's Monroe.
These are the people then-Pres Clinton pardoned as Hillary was revving up her race for a US Senate seat. The New Square Hasidic community then voted almost unanimously for Hillary giving her 1400 votes.
Excerpts from the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT August Term 1999 (Argued: May 15, 2000 Decided: August 25, 2000 ) Docket Nos. 99-1671(L), 99-1672, 99-1673, 99-1674 -UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee, -v.- CHAIM BERGER and AVRUM DAVID FRIESEL, a/k/a "David Friesel," a/k/a "Avraham Friesel," a/k/a "A. David Friesel," a/k/a "Aron Friesel," Defendants, KALMEN STERN, DAVID GOLDSTEIN, Esq., JACOB ELBAUM, a/k/a "Yitzchok Elbaum," and BENJAMIN BERGER, Defendants-Appellants.
The original indictment charged the appellants and two other defendants (now fugitives), Chaim Berger and Avrum David Friesel, with conspiracy and substantive counts based upon their participation in a massive conspiracy to defraud the Department of Education ("DOE"), the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), the Small Business Administration ("SBA"), the Social Security Administration ("SSA"), and the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). Count 1 of the redacted indictment charged all four appellants with conspiracy to defraud several federal agencies.
The remaining counts charged the appellants, in various combinations, with substantive crimesrelating to this conspiracy, including embezzlement, mail fraud, wire fraud, false statements, money laundering, filing a false tax return, and failing to file a tax return.
The evidence at trial revealed that the appellants -- most of whom resided in New Square, a Hasidic Jewish community in Rockland County, New York -- participated in a massive conspiracy to obtain by fraud millions of dollars in student financial aid, rental subsidies, social security benefits, and small business loans. All four appellants participated in a fraud upon the DOE, which formed the centerpiece of the government's case, but the government also proved that the conspirators or subsets of them victimized other agencies as well.
They also concealed their income to increase the amounts they could obtain under federal subsidy programs and reduce their tax liability. The conspiracy involved a number of other participants, including major figures in the New Square Hasidic community. We now examine the scheme in greater detail.
First, the conspirators defrauded the DOE's Pell Grant Program by falsely enrolling thousands of New Square residents and others in schools offering mentor-based independent study programs. Many students never actually studied at these institutions, even though the conspirators prepared a paper record of their academic progress. Ultimately, most of the false students were enrolled at Toldos Yakov Yosef Seminary ("TYY"), an institution that purported to employ all four appellants and received over $11 million in Pell Grants but never existed except on paper.
As part of the conspiracy, the conspirators made extensive efforts to deceive the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training ("ACCET") in order to gain accreditation for TYY so that the school could qualify for federal aid. Each of the appellants played a role in TYY. Elbaum was named as Board Secretary and had signature authority over bank accounts into which Pell Grant funds were wire-transferred and out of which payments were made to community organizations, to conspirators, and to the DOE (to repay student loans).
Stern was named as administrator (1987-88); pretended to be Arye Reich, the supposed Registrar -- who was living in Israel at the time -- during ACCET visits; and made false statements to the accreditors in this capacity. Goldstein wasnamed as Administrator (1988-91) and helped deceive the accreditors in 1989. He resigned in 1991 and later served on the ACCET Board of Trustees. In addition, he made statements to a DOE investigator in 1996 that maintained the fiction of TYY, identifying officials and claiming to have fulfilled the duties of Administrator while at TYY. Finally, Berger served as an alleged mentor, and paychecks for supposed TYY employee Cheindel Bernat -- Ayre Reich's daughter, who also lived in Israel -- were deposited into a bank account controlled by Berger in Bernat's name.
Second, the conspirators defrauded HUD's Section 8 housing subsidy program. Elbaum and Stern failed to report to HUD payments they received from accounts controlled by Chaim Berger, thus fraudulently increasing the amount of Section 8 subsidies for which they could qualify as tenants. Benjamin Berger fraudulently obtained Section 8 rent payments as a landlord by disguising his ownership of property in New Square -- placing it in Cheindel Bernat's name -- and then depositing checks from HUD in an account he controlled in Bernat's name. In addition, Berger obtained greater subsidies as a Section 8 tenant in Spring Valley by failing to report the income he received as a shadowlandlord.
Third, various conspirators, including Goldstein and Stern, participated in schemes to defraud the SSA and the SBA, the details of which are not relevant to this appeal.
Fourth, the conspirators attempted to disguise from the IRS the income that they had diverted to the New Square community and to themselves through the above schemes. Elbaum and Stern received proceeds through off-the-books payments made from accounts controlled by Chaim Berger. Elbaum also failed to file a tax return for one year. Finally, Berger received and concealed income through his control of an account in Cheindel Bernat's name.