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The Russian-speaking Domnitser was director of the two pillaged Holocaust funds from 1999 to 2010 and had final approval over applications. During one day in May 2008, Domnitser approved four applications from two couples in Maryland and Pennsylvania who each had almost identical persecution stories.
Rohr also produced money orders totaling several thousand dollars paid to Domnitser by fraudulent applicants.
Rohr added that prior to 1999, when Domnitser was a caseworker at the Claims Conference, he also forged documents to enable fraudulent claims.
The government’s case was supported by four cooperating witnesses, including former Claims Conference employees Faina Davidson, Zlata Blavatnik and Ella Voskresenskiy.
Domnitser’s defense attorney, Marlon Kirton, told the jury that Blavatnik and her daughter, Voskresenskiy, made more than $500,000 combined from the fraud. Kirton produced a bank statement showing that in 2010, when Domnitser was arrested, he had only $3,000 in a joint account he shared with his wife.
Kirton described Domnitser as a hard worker who rarely took vacations. He produced emails in which Domnitser rejected applications because of forged documents. He also said that Domnitser rented his Brooklyn apartment and did not show any of the “trappings of making money with all these applications.”
While some cases of fraud were blatant, such as people born after the war applying for Holocaust funds, there were also more complicated instances of fraud. These included applications submitted by people who did not have sufficient documentation to support their claim or by those who did not suffer under the Nazis for the required period of time, or who suffered in a location deemed not to be under Nazi occupation.
John C. Conard, another defense attorney, summed up the quandary for survivors. “If you are fleeing an advancing army, when are you off occupied territory?”
Conard represented Luba Kramrish, a Toronto woman whose mother, a Holocaust survivor, did not have the necessary documentation to prove that she had been in a ghetto. Prosecutors said that a Claims Conference worker, Davidson, fabricated the documentation so that Kramrish’s mother would be approved. Kramrish paid Davidson $2,000.
During the following decade, Kramrish forwarded applications from about 20 more people, many of whom were ineligible, to the Claims Conference. Rohr outlined one case in which an applicant paid Kramrish $5,500 after a fraudulent Article II Fund application was approved. Kramrish gave $4,000 to Davidson, keeping $1,500 for herself “for doing nothing but passing on a signed blank application form and knowing… that [the applicant’s] story was not real,” Rohr said.