Charges Filed in $42.5 Million Claims Conference Fraud

By Uriel Heilman (JTA)

Published November 09, 2010.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York is announcing charges against 17 people for participating in a $42.5 million fraud at the Claims Conference.

Details of the charges will be disclosed at a 1 p.m. news conference Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Officials at the Claims Conference, which acts as a pass-through to distribute more than $400 million per year from Eastern European governments directly to survivors, discovered late last year that it had paid out at least $7 million in pension payments dating back as far as 1980 to 202 imposters who used fraudulent documents to file claims for payments.

In July, the Claims Conference notified recipients of the money that their payments were being suspended and that they had 90 days either to return all the money they had received or appeal the suspension.

Claims Conference officials first noticed a year ago that several claimants had falsified information to receive payments from the Hardship Fund, an account established by the German government to give one-time payments of roughly $3,000 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany.

A further internal investigation revealed that more fraudulent claimants received payments from the organization’s Article 2 fund, through which the German government gives pension payments of roughly $375 per month to those who spent either six months minimum in a concentration camp or at least 18 months in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoid the Nazis.

Conference officials said they immediately notified the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and discussed the matter in meetings with the German government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Claims Conference are continuing to investigate the matter.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of this,” Gregory Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told JTA over the summer. “We have worked very closely with law enforcement.”



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