Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Another Embezzler, Another Shul

Embezzlement is a serious offense in any instance, and embezzlement from a religious or charitable organization is all the more serious because the people who donate money to such organizations have certain high expectations, both of the organizations themselves and the people who run them.  Thus, not only are the organizations and their intended recipients of their beneficence victimized by the embezzlement.  The donors, who made their donation with no expectations of profit in exchange for the risk (other than a tax deduction, which Obama has significantly reduced), are victims in a way that investors in the securities market can never be.

It is, of course, a sad day for the Jewish people when the organization from which money is embezzled is a synagogue.  And we now have one of those sad days.

Ex-attorney Isaac Zucker, former Treasurer of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $600,000 from the shul.  I say "ex-attorney" because under New York Judiciary Law ยง 90(4)(a), an attorney who is convicted (and, a fortiori, who pleads guilty) to a felony offense automatically is disbarred upon the event.  He faces a maximum of 7 years in the slammer.

My comments, in no particular order:

1.   I know some people connected with Aish Kodesh, and have, over the past few months, been made privy to a small amount of inside details regarding this matter.

2.  Like so many other social groups, whether ethnicities or junior high athletic teams or anything in between, we Jewish people have a strong tendency to protect our own, and an aversion to involving outsiders in the process of righting wrongs within the group.  In this case, after the theft was discovered, the Aish Kodesh leadership had attempted to work out a deal with Zucker to get the money returned, and only went to the authorities after it became clear that such attempts would be futile. 

            I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, there needs to be a tough stance taken against embezzlers.  On the other hand, the District Attorney's office regularly engages in plea bargaining, which, in many respects, differs little in concept from trying to work out a private deal for restitution.

3.  It will be interesting to see what type of sentence is advocated by the membership and leadership of Aish Kodesh in the sentencing process.  What will their letters to the Judge say?  What will the victim impact statements say?  And what type of consonance or dissonance will there be between such statements, and the statements the same people made with respect to certain notorious cases involving various Jewish criminals convicted of crimes such as bank fraud, child molestation and cop-killing?

4.  In a similar synagogue embezzlement case a few years ago, "U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody told Barry Wilf, former director of Temple Sinai in Dresher, that the maximum 57-month, no-parole sentence was too light considering that 'minor drug dealers get 60 months.'"

5.  A separate matter will be Mr. Zucker's tax affairs.  Now that Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice has gotten her conviction, the IRS, using the guilty plea, is sure to impute to Zucker some tax consequences from the income he received in the process.  Ditto for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

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