The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched a second fraud investigation into Jewish schools in Brooklyn after uncovering their swindling of another key federal program—the National School Lunch Program.
The investigations followed an earlier set of raids on Jewish schools operating another swindle, raking in taxpayers’ cash through insider trading and kickbacks in IT supplies under the “E-Rate” taxpayer-subsidized program.
According to a report in the Jewish Forward newspaper, a Jew who works in the ultra-Orthodox schools in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, said that the heads of the Central United Talmudical Academy in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, are now claiming that the March FBI raids on their facility “were focused on funds provided by the National School Lunch Program.”
The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.
This means, the Forward said, that the FBI is now engaged in two separate probes into fraudulent use of federal funds by Orthodox yeshivas.
A FBI spokesman said that the Rockland and Orange county searches were part of an ongoing fraud investigation, and that the Brooklyn searches were part of a separate ongoing investigation.
According to the Forward report, investigators tracking spending of National School Lunch Program funds had paid a surprise visit to the Central United Talmudical Academy earlier in March.
The schools involved are all linked to the Satmar Hasidic dynasty-dominated settlement of Kiryas Joel, a village within the town of Monroe in Orange County, New York.
Kiryas Joel’s public school district has long been a subject of controversy. First created in 1990 by an act of the New York State Legislature to serve special education students, the US Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that the district violated the Constitution’s requirement of separation between religion and state.
Allies of the influential Satmar sect in the state government rewrote the law allowing for creation of the district, finally finding statutory language able to overcome the constitutional barriers.
According to NYSED documents, the district served 123 students in the 2008–2009 school year and 217 students the previous year, all of them under special education.
In 2011 and 2012, the Satmar Hasidic schools in New York City received a total of $14.7 million in federal and state NSLP reimbursements. The Buffalo City School District, by comparison, received $12.4 million during that year.
The majority of Kiryas Joel 22,246 residents are Yiddish-speaking, with the 2000 census showing that only 6.2 percent spoke English at home.
On four occasions since 1990, the Middletown Times-Herald Record has run lengthy investigative articles on claims of electoral fraud in the village.
A 1996 article found that Kiryas Joel residents who were students at yeshivas in Brooklyn had on many occasions registered and voted in both the village and Brooklyn; a year later the paper reported that it had happened again.
In 2001 absentee ballots were cast by voters who did not normally reside in the village. In some cases, ballots were cast by people who resided in Antwerp, Belgium, without a set date of expected return and thus would not be allowed under New York law to vote in any election for state or local office.