A Hasidic school in Brooklyn will pay $5 million in fines after it was caught stealing millions of dollars from government programs – much of it meant to provide free meals to students in need, according to federal prosecutors.
The Central United Talmudic Academy, which serves more than 5,000 students in Williamsburg, agreed to the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement on Monday, which included an additional $3 million the school has already paid in restitution. The school is the largest private Hasidic school in New York, according to the New York Times, which first reported the development.
Federal authorities said the school engaged in “several overlapping frauds,” including diverting more than $3 million in federal funds meant to pay for meals for school children. An investigation found an “overwhelming majority of meals” were fabircated – and that funds were instead used for private parties thrown by adults.
The school also admitted to creating no-show jobs for some staffers and compensating employees through vouchers and cash to allow them to qualify for government benefits, according to court documents.
The agreement comes three years after the school’s executive director, Elozer Porges, was sentenced to two years in prison for the school meal fraud scheme. The school previously agreed to significant structural changes, replacing its executive team and creating a new oversight board.
The $5 million in fines is on top of the $3 million in restitution the school has already paid, prosecutors said. As part of the new agreement, the school will also be supervised by an independent monitor for three years.
An attorney for the school, Mark Mukasy, did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement, Breon Peace, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, described the school’s misconduct as “systemic and wide ranging.”
“Today’s resolution accounts for CUTA’s involvement in those crimes and provides a path forward to repay and repair the damage done to the community, while also allowing CUTA to continue to provide education for children in the community,” Peace said in a prepared statement.
The agreement comes at a moment of growing scrutiny around New York’s yeshivas, as the state begins implementing new regulations in response to years-long complaints about a lack of secular education standards at the schools.