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Far Rockaway rabbi sentenced for stealing public funds

A Far Rockaway rabbi was sentenced to three years behind bars for stealing $5 million in public funds.
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A Far Rockaway rabbi has been sentenced to three years behind bars after being convicted of stealing millions in public funds meant for special needs children in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods throughout the city.

Rabbi Samuel Hiller, 59, of the now-shuttered not-for-profit, Island Child Development Center, pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny in April for the theft of $5 million in funds his organization had been allocated from city and state agencies between 2005 and 2012. Three others have also pleaded guily as well, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

“The betrayal of the public trust by this defendant who stole funds which were earmarked for special needs pre-schoolers with disabilities and used for his personal gain was deplorable,” Brown said. “The sentence imposed today by the court sends a strong message that people who are engaged in fraudulent activities will be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions.”

The DA said $12 million in total may have been diverted from ICDC during this time to family businesses and relatives as well as personal expenses, including jewelry, a family wedding and home renovations.

The organization had about $27 million in government funds passed to it before the DA’s Detective Bureau and his Economic Crimes Bureau and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Division of State Government Accountability and Division of Investigations launched investigations into ICDC, formerly located at 1854 Cornaga Ave. in Far Rockaway, according to the DA.

“Pocketing millions of dollars in money intended to aid children with special needs is inexcusable,” DiNapoli said. “Thanks to the work of my investigators and auditors in partnership with Queens County District AttorneyBrown, this offender has been brought to justice and millions recovered.”

The ICDC specialized in providing services to special needs children between the ages of 3 and 5 in communities such as the Rockaways, Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, according to the DA,

Co-defendant Roy Hoffmann, 53, of Woodmere, L.I., was an independent auditor hired by the ICDC who pleaded guilty in September and is awaiting a December sentencing date alongside Ira Kurman, 54, the former executive director of the organization for grand larceny. Daniel Laniado, 44, of Brooklyn, was described as an investor by the DA. He pleaded guilty to an identity theft charge in April and as part of a plea agreement paid $82,000 in restitutions to the city Dept. of Education, has forfeited $8,000 and will pay an additional $1 million, Brown said.

Hiller paid $1 million in restitutions, forfeited over $1 million in seized assets and has signed a confession of judgment for over $3 million to the DOE, according to the DA.

The DOE commonly contracts services out to organizations similar to the ICDC, the DA’s office said.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 12:00 am, October 20, 2017
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