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New Jersey rabbi among those accused of welfare fraud

Posted June 27

A New Jersey rabbi and his wife were among four married couples accused of misrepresenting their income to receive $1.3 million in Medicaid, food stamps and other government assistance programs, according to the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.

Zalmen Sorotzkin, a rabbi at the Congregation Lutzk synagogue in Lakewood, was arrested Monday with his wife, Tzipporah, over the improper collection of about $340,000 in Medicaid, food stamps, housing and supplemental security income from January 2009 to April 2014, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

Another couple, Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin, were also arrested, accused of collecting about $585,000 in government benefits, prosecutors said.

Both couples allegedly misrepresented their income and failed to disclose other sources of income to government agencies. As a result, their stated income was low enough to receive these public benefits, according to the prosecutor's office. They all face charges of second-degree theft by deception, the office said.

Monday's raids were "the first of multiple ongoing arrests" in Lakewood regarding Medicaid and government assistance fraud, according to the prosecutor's office. The investigation is being done in conjunction with the FBI, the state comptroller's office, the Social Security Administration and the state Department of the Treasury, the prosecutor's office said.

"Financial assistance programs are designed to alleviate family hardships for those truly in need," Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said in a statement.

"My office gave clear guidance and notice to the Lakewood community in 2015 of what is considered financial abuse of these programs. Those who choose to ignore those warnings by seeking to illegally profit on the backs of taxpayers will pay the punitive price of their actions."

Separate federal charges

Two other couples, including Zalmen Sorotzkin's brother Mordechai and his wife, Rachel, were arrested on federal charges of conspiring to steal government funds during similar raids Monday, according to a statement from acting US Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick.

The federal complaint alleges that Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin conspired to received Medicaid benefits over a three-year period despite receiving more than $1.5 million in income. They're accused of failing to report that income, which would have made them ineligible for the health care benefits.

Fred Zemel, an attorney for Rachel Sorotzkin, told CNN that all the defendants will be vindicated after further investigation. CNN has reached out to attorneys for the other defendants for comment.

In a separate case, Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum allegedly underreported or failed to report their proper income to receive Medicaid, Section 8 housing and food stamps from 2011 to 2014, according to a criminal complaint.

They earned more than $1 million in each of 2012 and 2013, according to the criminal complaint. In all, the Nussbaums accepted about $180,000 in government benefits to which they were not entitled, the complaint said.

The Nussbaums and the other couple were charged with one count of conspiring to steal government funds, and each count carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, according to Fitzpatrick.

The four appeared Monday afternoon before US Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert and were each released after paying $100,000 bond, according to court documents.

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