Brooklyn yeshiva agreed to pay $5 million in fines for school lunch fraud

After admitting to stealing millions of dollars from a federal school meal program for disadvantaged students, a yeshiva in Brooklyn has agreed to pay a punishment of $5 million.

The Central United Talmudic Academy (CUTA) in Williamsburg entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government and admitted that it had stolen more than $3.2 million by falsely claiming that it had begun a school supper program that did not actually exist. Because of the agreement, the Central United Talmudic Academy didn’t have to go to jail for stealing.

It has been four years since Elozer Porges, the former executive director of the yeshiva, and Joel Lowy, the former assistant director of the yeshiva, pled guilty to conspiracy to conduct mail and wire fraud. The deal was reached at this time.

The university has previously made a reparation payment of $3.2 million to the United States Department of Agriculture as well as to the Health Department of the state. It is now required to make penalty payments of $5 million over the course of the next 36 months without being able to use insurance funds to meet the cost of the bill.

In addition to these requirements, the yeshiva must agree to be watched by a neutral person, make a number of changes to how it works, and promise to never hire Porges or Lowy again.

“Today’s resolution accounts for CUTA’s involvement in those crimes and provides a path forward to repay and repair the damage done to the community, while also allowing CUTA to continue to provide education for children in the community,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said Monday.

While Lowy was given five years of probation and was ordered to pay $98,400 in reparations, Porges received a sentence of two years in jail for his involvement in the crime.

In the memorandum that Porges submitted to the court for his sentencing, he detailed how the school had offered him a salary of more than 150,000 dollars per year to “among other things, make sure that it could provide its services while asking as little as possible from its financial backers and its student families.”

The 2019 government filing reads: “The evidence shows that he accomplished this by fraud: he invented a fake dinner program for needy children, applied to the government for the funds to run that program, and diverted those funds to unrelated expenses.”

“It is unclear whether Porges received a specific bonus for this perfidy; but, Porges was the director of CUTA, he orchestrated these brazen acts of fraud, and he was paid very well for it.”

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