The CEO of Jewish ambulance service Chevra Hatzalah resigned on September 28, days after the Forward reported that the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty had dumped him as a consultant.
Rabbi Dovid Cohen’s ongoing consulting position with the Met Council ended on the same day the not-for-profit group fired executive director William Rapfogel, who has since been charged with defrauding the charity in a $5 million kickback scheme.
The New York Times reported September 26 that Cohen was the unnamed co-conspirator named in the criminal complaint filed against Rapfogel on September 24, citing two unnamed sources.
Chevra Hatzalah’s board accepted Cohen’s resignation on September 29, according to David W. Shipper, a board member of Hatzalah and its attorney. Shipper said that Cohen did not say why he was resigning.
Cohen was executive director of the Met Council in the 1980s and early 1990s. According to the criminal complaint, Rapfogel’s co-conspirator began colluding with an insurance company employee in the early 1990s to overcharge the Met Council on insurance contracts and pass back the profits. Rapfogel, who allegedly joined the scheme when he became the Met Council’s executive director in 1992, is alleged to have siphoned a total of $5 million from the Met Council over twenty years. Some of that money is alleged to have gone to politicians, in the form of political donations made in the names of insurance company employees.
Cohen’s attorney Alan Abramson did not respond to a request for comment on Sepetmber 24 as to whether Cohen was Rapfogel’s co-conspirator.
Hatzalah paid Cohen $183,000 for his work as the group’s CEO in 2011 and $123,000 in 2010.
In 2010, Hatzalah received a $445,000 grant from the New York State Assembly to update its communications system. Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker whose chief of staff is Rapfogel’s wife, spoke at the ceremony announcing the grant.
Shipper said that his group had no reason to believe that the Met Council fraud allegations had anything to do with Hatzalah. “It’s really not a Hatzalah matter,” Shipper said. “It happens that Rabbi Cohen had previous ties with the Met Council… Any allegations or issues having to do with the Met Council have nothing to do with Hatzalah.”
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.