A Midwood-based charitable fundraising operation purporting to benefit Israel-related causes was shut down last week, after Attorney general Eric Schneiderman unveiled criminal charges against its operators for allegedly funneling millions of dollars into his own pockets.
The ring, operated out of a call center at 1493 Coney Island Avenue, was lead by Yaakov Weingarten, who, along with two associates, fraudulently raised millions of dollars through 19 separate charities, claiming the funds would go to program in Israel or religious activities, prosecutors say. In many cases, however, the charities never existed, and the funds went to Weingarten and his family’s benefit.
The AG’s press release lays out how the ring functioned, and on what the alleged fraudster spent the money:
As detailed in the complaint, filed in Kings County Supreme Court, more than $2 million in cash was withdrawn from charity bank accounts controlled by Weingarten between 2007 and 2013. At least an additional $350,000 in checks were made payable to cash and more than $280,000 in additional charitable funds was used to pay for mortgages on two homes, including the Brooklyn house purchased in 2009 by Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, which was remodeled with additional tens of thousands of dollars meant for charity. Charitable funds were used to pay for dentist visits, utility bills, for personal vehicles, video rentals and a trip to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in July 2011.
… The lawsuit alleges that Weingarten, 52, and an associate, Simon Weiss, 28, used a variety of unusual banking practices to conceal the fraud and transfer funds from account to account and for their own benefit. The defendants’ banking practices were so convoluted that they bounced over 2,100 checks, resulting in over $65,000 in donations being wasted on bank overdraft fees. The complaint further alleges that much of the money raised was funneled through accounts that exist in the names of several religious corporations that Weingarten created for this purpose, rather than to hold worship services or provide religious instruction.
The lawsuit also names Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, 52, who is alleged to have benefited from the charitable fraud. Another defendant, David Yifat, 66, is alleged to have been the office manager who supervised Weingarten’s telemarketing and mail solicitation operation.