Former Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty executive director William Rapfogel will serve between 3 ½ and 10 years in prison following a plea deal finalized today in which he admitted to stealing more than $1 million from the charity, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced.
Rapfogel and David Cohen, another Met Council executive director, pled guilty to multiple felony charges in New York State Supreme Court on April 23.
The massive fraud uncovered last summer at the Met Council, one of the city’s leading Jewish charities, has led to a large shakeup within the organization as the group has struggled to regain the confidence of donors.
In court, Rapfogel pled guilty to grand larceny, money laundering, criminal tax fraud, and offering a false instrument for filing. He admitted to participating in a scheme that stretched back to 1993. In addition to his prison term, Rapfogel is required to repay $3 million to the Met Council to cover part of the group’s losses. He will serve a longer prison term if he does not pay those funds by July 9.
Cohen, in his plea, admitted to receiving $650,000 from the Met Council in kickbacks and other payments. He is required to pay $650,000 in restitution and will serve between 1 ½ and 4 ½ years in prison.
Rapfogel and Cohen admitted to participating in a conspiracy that began in 1992, when Cohen had insurance salesman Joseph Ross inflate the invoices he submitted to the Met Council and pass on kickbacks to Cohen and the Met Council’s treasurer, Herb Friedman. The conspiracy continued when Rapfogel became the Met Council’s executive director in 1993.
At the height of the fraud, according to the plea deal, Rapfogel was receiving $30,000 a month in kickbacks from Ross. Ross also used the money skimmed off of the inflated payments to make donations to political campaigns. Those campaign donations were directed by Rapfogel and Cohen for the benefit of the Met Council.
The Daily News reported April 13 that unnamed members of the Jewish community were seeking to help Rapfogel raise $3 million to meet the restitution payment. The paper reported that unnamed people have been making phone calls on Rapfogel’s behalf, but that the requests were being made quietly.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.