Was Holocaust Fraud at Claims Conference Even Worse Than Believed?

Prosecutors Work To Keep Lid on $57M Corruption Case

Widespread Misconduct: As the federal trial over fraud at the Claims Conference kicks off, Leo Rechter, president of the National Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, is angry that prosecutors are trying to limit disclosure of widespread fraud at the group.
Widespread Misconduct: As the federal trial over fraud at the Claims Conference kicks off, Leo Rechter, president of the National Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, is angry that prosecutors are trying to limit disclosure of widespread fraud at the group.

By Paul Berger

Published April 11, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
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Federal prosecutors are trying to prevent a jury from hearing evidence that a multimillion-dollar fraud at a non-profit which processes Holocaust claims is even more widespread than the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office have so far revealed.

The prosecutors, from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, are also trying to prevent defense lawyers from arguing that the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany were negligent and therefore partially to blame for the alleged $57 million fraud that will be the subject of the trial.

A fraudster’s guilt “simply does not depend on whether a victim was diligent or not,” prosecutors argued in court papers filed in U.S. District Court on March 22.

Judge Thomas P. Griesa, of U.S. District Court, has deferred ruling on both of the prosecutors’ requests unless and until such claims arise during the trial, which began with jury selection on April 8 and is expected to last for four weeks.

The Claims Conference distributes millions of dollars from the German government to Holocaust survivors around the world. The trial will focus on alleged fraud perpetrated against two Claims Conference controlled funds.

But the government’s motions suggest, for the first time, that additional cases of fraud may have taken place.

In their court papers, prosecutors request that defense attorneys be barred from “eliciting testimony or introducing evidence at trial concerning purported improprieties in the Claims Conference’s administration of other compensation programs, including Germany’s Slave Labor Program and the Fund for Victims of Medical Experiments and Other Injuries.”

When asked about these references, a Claims Conference spokesman told the Forward: “The Claims Conference was a victim of an organized, complex crime. We will not comment on the defendants’ legal strategies and possible defense theories.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also declined to comment beyond the statements contained in the prosecutors’ filing.

But some survivors who have long been critical of the Claims Conference are disappointed with the prosecutors’ request.


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