- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A rabbi and some business associates were charged Tuesday with diverting $12.4 million in special education funding to subsidize private schools, summer camps and personal expenses.

A Queens grand jury indicted Rabbi Samuel Hiller and three other people connected to Island Child Development Center on counts including grand larceny, identity theft and falsifying business records.

Prosecutors said the money was intended for the Far Rockaway nonprofit, one of the city’s largest providers of special education services for preschoolers with disabilities, to educate students. If convicted, Hiller and his co-defendants each could face up to 25 years in prison.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown called the allegations “disheartening.”

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office aided in the investigation, said the scheme showed “brazen disregard for common decency and the law.”

Lawyers for Hiller, the assistant director of Island Child Development Center, and Ira Kurman, a former executive director, did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

A lawyer for the organization’s independent auditor, Roy Hoffmann, said he is a “good and decent man” and is presumed innocent. A lawyer for Daniel Laniado, who prosecutors said was a self-described investor in the organization, declined to comment.

Prosecutors said Hiller redirected about $8 million to unaffiliated schools and camps and spent $30,000 on plumbing work at his home. They said $300,000 was used to pay for a redesign of Hoffmann’s home.

Kurman is accused of issuing more than $143,000 in personal loans and receiving repayment in cash and in discounted goods and services, including catering for his son’s bar mitzvah and his daughter’s wedding.

Laniado, who owns a Borough Park kosher supermarket, is accused of cashing more than $1 million in organization checks, sometimes under names he wasn’t authorized to use.

The defendants are due back in court July 7.

Prosecutors are asking a judge to force the men to return $11.4 million. They said about $1 million has been returned by a school where Hiller served as principal and a Greene County camp for Orthodox youth.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide