The New York Times carried an article today about Tuesday’s bust, involving some 17 Russian-Americans – most or all of whom lived in Southern Brooklyn – and their scummiest of scumbag attempts to bilk Holocaust survivor funds. In it, they go inside a building on Brighton 12th Street where documents were made or altered. From their reporting, it appears knowledge of their misdeeds were widespread, and they had approached many neighbors about participating in the scheme.
The authorities came early on Tuesday, entering the six-story apartment building on Brighton 12th Street in the heart of Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
They headed upstairs, stopping at the fourth-floor apartment where Tatyana and Abram Grinman lived. The Grinmans, especially Tatyana, were known in the building; neighbors said she had approached many of them, asking if they wanted to participate in a program that would give money to Holocaust victims.
“She gave me papers to fill out because my mother and father lived in the ghetto,” said Bella Freytor, who lives upstairs from the Grinmans. “She said I keep $1,000 and she keeps $3,000,” her fee for handling the application.
… Ms. Freytor said she received a check in the mail for about $4,000, cashed it, kept $1,000 and turned over the rest to Ms. Grinman. She said her husband also submitted an application and received money. She said Ms. Grinman approached many people in the building and participation was widespread.
“Now I know she cheated,” Ms. Freytor.
… It was not clear to Ms. Freytor how or even if her application or that of her husband’s was doctored; she said they gave their information in good faith, received a check and paid Ms. Grinman for her services.
Ms. Freytor’s account of the kickback scheme jibes with details in the indictment. A confidential witness told F.B.I. agents that she provided copies of her Social Security card and passport to Ms. Grinman. The witness then “cashed the check, kept $1,000 and gave the remainder of the money to Tatyana Grinman,” according to court papers.
The defendants face 20-year prison sentences if convicted of the top counts. When Mr. Bharara was asked whether participants like Ms. Freytor would face charges, he said, “the investigation remains open.”
… Pat Singer, who calls herself the “mother of the neighborhood,” lives in the Grinmans’ apartment building and also runs the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association, where she helps people fill out forms for entitlement programs. She posted the names of the 17 defendants on the front window of her association’s storefront.
“People who really deserve the money will now be looked at cross-eyed because of these morons,” she said. “We’ll have to live this down for the next 100 years.”
Janet Veksler, who also works for the association, expressed shame that Russian Jews were accused of perpetrating the fraud. “I had a feeling this was my people,” she said, recalling her reaction after hearing the news. “I was just mortified.”