Federal prosecutors are charging seven men with stealing millions of dollars in federal funds intended for Orthodox yeshivas in Rockland County, New York.
The alleged scheme was to bilk a federal subsidy program called E-Rate, which is meant to pay for internet services for schools and libraries, by billing the program for services that were never delivered to Rockland County yeshivas.
Some of the internet services paid for by E-Rate had been requested by schools that ban internet use for religious reasons.
“For years, these defendants stole money from the E‑rate program, billing the E-rate program for equipment and services which were not in fact provided,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “In doing so, the defendants fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in E rate funds to which they were not entitled, and which should lawfully have been spent to help provide access to technology to educate underprivileged children.”
According to NBC, the people indicted Wednesday are residents of Monsey, New York, and Kiryas Joel, the Rockland County village dominated by the Satmar Hasidic group.
The Forward reported in 2013 on exploitation of the E-Rate program by Orthodox groups in Brooklyn and New Jersey. The Forward reported at the time that schools in the heavily Orthodox Jewish town of Lakewood, N.J. had received more funding through the E-Rate program than schools in any other municipality in the entire state of New Jersey.