Yaakov Weingarten shown in a fundraising video for one of his fake charities. (YouTube)
NEW YORK (JTA) — A Brooklyn man who pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud in an Israeli charities scam was ordered to pay more than a half-million dollars in a civil suit.
The judgment against Yaakov Weingarten, 53, and his wife, Rivka, was handed down Wednesday in Kings County Supreme Court, according to a news release from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The Weingartens must give $360,000 to UJA-Federation of New York and pay $162,000 in civil fines and penalties. He also was barred from fundraising for nonprofits.
Weingarten pleaded guilty to tax fraud in May for raising funds for phony Jewish nonprofit organizations. He was sentenced to five years’ probation after paying $90,685 in restitution to New York State.
According to Schneiderman’s office, Weingarten and his associates bilked thousands of North American donors with claims that he was collecting money for Israeli charitable purposes such as emergency medical services and programs for terror victims, sick children and the poor. He also failed to report his income on tax returns.
The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, which filed the civil suit against the Weingartens, closed Weingarten’s fundraising operation in June 2013. The operation was run out of a Brooklyn storefront with associates Simon Weiss and David Yifat.
Weingarten used much of the money, including more than $270,000 between January 2009 and December 2011, to pay for personal expenses.
Weiss, 29, and Yifat, 68, also have been barred from charitable fundraising in New York.
The judgment also requires Weingarten to dissolve 11 incorporated entities he used in his fraudulent fundraising, including four “religious corporations” that claimed to be synagogues. Weingarten also had eight fake organizations that were never formally incorporated. Most of the organizations had Hebrew names, including Shearim, Inc.; Bnei Torah, Inc. and Agudath Chesed Bikur Cholom Israel, Inc.
The Weingartens’ money for UJA-Federation will be distributed equally to Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel and United Hatzalah of Israel.