WOODMERE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A respected treasurer of an historic Long Island synagogue was charged with stealing more than half a million dollars from his congregation.
The accusations of embezzlement have left a community wounded, and members of the beloved Woodmere synagogue feeling betrayed, reports CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
The elected treasurer of Congregation Aish Kodesh, 47-year-old Isaac Zucker, was arrested at 2 a.m. Wednesday inside a hotel room near Long Island MacArthur Airport and charged with grand larceny.
Investigators said Zucker had been tipped that police were onto him. His wife reported him missing on Friday, when Zucker’s alleged scheme began to unravel.
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“From 2008 to 2011, Mr. Zucker stole – embezzled – more than $600,000 of the congregation’s funds,” Nassau County police Det. Lt. Kevin Smith said.
Smith said the congregation became suspicious when their checks started to bounce.
“Funds were diverted from the operating account, and then swept out, so that’s why there was no inkling – plus you had a person who you would never have suspected,” congregation chairman Azriel Ganz said.
The orthodox synagogue is a fixture in Woodmere. Its passionate members said the news – more than half a million dollars gone with the wind – hit them like a sucker punch.
“I think it really shocks the community when people steal, whether it’s $600,000 from a synagogue or loose change in dollar bills from a poor box in a church,” Smith said.
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Authorities told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall that Zucker allegedly stole the money over a three-year period.
Zucker pleaded not guilty and was being held on $300,000 bond. The special prosecutor called him a flight risk, and his passport was confiscated.
Zucker’s wife and daughter were at the courthouse Wednesday, as were his parents and siblings, in a show of support.
Zucker is also a local securities attorney, with his office next to the Roosevelt Field Mall.
Ganz said the allegations are heartbreaking, and that the stolen money was needed for operating expenses.
“We did an emergency fundraiser and we raised a significant amount of money over the weekend,” Ganz said.
Prosecutors said it is not yet clear where the missing cash went, or whether it can be returned to the congregation.
Nassau County police are asking any current or former law clients of Isaac Zucker to contact them if they suspect any misappropriation of their money.