From NYS Attorney General's Office
The New York State Attorney General’s Office recently filed suit against, and obtained a temporary restraining order shutting down, a fundraising operation run by Yaakov Weingarten that operated out of a call center at 1493 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn.
According to the official complaint, Weingarten and two associates fraudulently raised millions of dollars from donors, using the names 19 charities that supposedly carried out programs in Israel or conducted religious activities. An investigation by the Attorney General's Charities Bureau found that most of these charities did not operate or exist, and were instead used by Weingarten for his and his family’s personal benefit.
“These defendants brazenly abused the generosity of the public, and in particular the selfless donations that many Jews provided for charitable programs in Israel,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. "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.”
The complaint, which was Kings County Supreme Court, charges more than $2 million in cash was withdrawn from charity bank accounts controlled by Weingarten between 2007 and 2013. At least an additional $350,000 in checks were made payable to cash, and more than $280,000 in additional charitable funds was used to pay for mortgages on two homes. Charitable funds were used to pay for dentist visits, utility bills, for personal vehicles, video rentals and a trip to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, the Attorney General’s Office alleges.
The temporary restraining order freezes the bank accounts of the four individual defendants and all the charities controlled by Weingarten. It prohibits the defendants from soliciting charitable donations and bars them from destroying or altering records. The Court set a July 15 return date for the Attorney General's request for a preliminary injunction that would extend the freeze order.
The defendants are Weingarten, 52; Simon Weiss, 28; Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, 52; and office manager David Yifat, 66.
The lawsuit alleges that Weingarten, 52, and an associate, Simon Weiss, 28, used a variety of unusual banking practices to conceal the fraud and transfer funds from account to account and for their own benefit. The defendants’ banking practices were so convoluted that they bounced over 2,100 checks, resulting in over $65,000 in donations being wasted on bank overdraft fees. The complaint further alleges that much of the money raised was funneled through accounts that exist in the names of several religious corporations that Weingarten created for this purpose, rather than to hold worship services or provide religious instruction.
The lawsuit also names Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, 52, who is alleged to have benefited from the charitable fraud. Another defendant, David Yifat, 66, is alleged to have been the office manager who supervised Weingarten’s telemarketing and mail solicitation operation.