NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Brooklyn man allegedly spent charitable donations intended for Israel on everything from his mortgage to dentist visits to video rentals, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Yaakov Weingarten allegedly withdrew more than $2 million in cash from donations to 19 charities that supposedly ran programs or religious activities in Israel.
The trouble is the charities, which are run out of a Coney Island call center, were essentially bogus, used primarily by Weingarten for his own benefit, according to Schneiderman.
“Mr. Weingarten took these donations and spent them on himself and his family by converting the charities’ web of bank accounts into his own personal piggy bank,” Schneiderman said. “My office has no tolerance for this kind of abuse and we will spare no effort to put a stop to it.”
The withdrawals took place between 2007-13, according to Schneiderman. At least $350,000 in checks were made payable to cash and $280,000 was spent on mortgages. Donated money even paid for a trip to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in 2011, according to Schneiderman’s office. Some $65,000 was spent on bank overdraft fees after more than 2,100 checks bounced while the money was being shuttled between accounts.
The bank accounts associated with Weingarten and the charities have been frozen following a temporary restraining order.
Weingarten, 52, his wife Rivka, 52, David Yifat, 66, and Simon Weiss, 28, are all targets of a lawsuit filed by Schneiderman’s office. The lawsuit also names the following corporations and charities allegedly operated by Weingarten: Hatzalah Rescue Of Israel, Inc.; Shearim, Inc. A/K/A Shearin; Bnei Torah, Inc.; Chesed L’yisrael V’chasdei Yosef, Inc.; Yad L’shabbat, Inc.; Hatzalah Shomron, Inc.; Pulse Foundation, Inc. A/K/A Pulse: The Israel Leukemia And Cancer Society; Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholim Israel, Inc.; Kupat Reb Meir Baal Haness Bnei Torah Eretz Yisrael, Inc.; Congregation Yad L’shabbat, Inc.; and Shearim Hayad L’torah Center For Hatzalah L’shabbat and Chesed L’yisrael, Inc. and Israel Emergency Center; Magen Israel; Hayad Victim Assistance Fund; Lmaan Hatorah; Our Children; Zaka Israel A/K/A Zaka; Yaldei Simcha Yisrael; and Yad Yisrael.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office served Weingarten with papers on Friday afternoon.
Members of Weingarten’s heavily Orthodox Brooklyn neighborhood had little to say to CBS 2’s Tamara Leitner on Friday, and Weingarten initially refused to open his door for investigators or for CBS 2’s cameras.
Eventually investigators were able to hand papers off to a young man who opened a side door at Weingarten’s home.
The investigation is ongoing and the Attorney General’s Office has not indicated whether it will pursue criminal charges against Weingarten, his wife, or his business partners.
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