NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The FBI is investigating the theft of checks for charity that were sent to dozens – possibly even hundreds – of synagogues.

Members of the synagogues and other officials are left wondering who is stealing the checks, and how the thieves are getting the checks cashed into accounts around the world.

As CBS 2’s Pablo Guzman reports, what were believed to be isolated cases may actually be the work of a sophisticated crime ring.

Seniors at Young Israel of Midwood lined up for a bus on Monday, a bus made possible because of charitable donations. However, for many synagogues, it seems those donations are being intercepted.

“They put it in the mail, and the checks disappear!” Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind said. “For one reason or another, the checks disappear.”

Leaders from more than 15 organizatiosn crammed into Assemblyman Hikind’s office to say that someone has been stealing donations.

The theft only begins when the checks are grabbed out of a mailbox, however. What happens next shows how sophisticated and organized – and how big – the operation really is.

Hikind has copies of some of the checks that were stolen, and the key is not so much what’s on the front of the checks as what’s on the back.

“Each check, in the back, is endorsed by someone that – we have no clue,” he said. “This check of $12,000 disappeared, and went to a strange account.”

Hikind pointed to some of the phony accounts that have been set up around the world. The money was put into those accounts, Hikind says, only after the checks had been cleared by banks like Chase, Astoria Federal, and Sovereign.

That’s why all of the information and evidence has been sent to the FBI.

“Like everyone who may be watching, you just assume that the banks are watching and protecting your accounts,” Burt Blass, of the Torah Center of Hillcrest in Queens, said. “Well guess what? Maybe not.”

Assemblyman Hikind said the thefts could even add up to millions of dollars.

Often, thefts like these begin with check stolen on the Sabbath, because no one starts looking until at least Monday.

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