Kiryas Joel: Corruption Hidden Under a Religious Blanket
|Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.|
Up in Monroe, NY in a community called Kiryas Joel, citizens usually isolate themselves from the rest of the outside communities, yet own most of everything. I have done business with them when I used to work for a telephone and internet company nearby. There seems to be many health issues among them, many on Medicare or Medicaid. I never knew why and who was I to judge? While working for the telephone company, they would get a discount if they provided me with a copy of their Medicare or Medicaid cards. No exaggeration here, but 90% of the Hasidic community that I have dealt with were all on Medicare. Why? Some say they’re the richest people around. They buy land all over – literally. They practically own all of Monroe, NY. Are they really disabled? Or is it about money? If they have so much money, then why do they need Medicare and welfare? I’ve seen so many Medicare cards fly by my desk for approval and wondered what was wrong with all of them. Why do they have so many health problems? Or am I wrong? Are they really in need of government assistance?
Is it health or money?
From observations alone and by working for the local telephone company, they would provide me with a social security number, in order to open up a new account. (I totally disagree with giving a phone company your social security number, however it was their policy.) Most of the social security numbers were from a deceased loved one or a very young child. They used a dead person’s identity or a child’s, in order to open up an account. I didn’t think much of it, because there are a lot of people who do that anyway. I wasn’t going to say, ‘all of them’ do this, because that would be wrong. Many of the residents of Kiryas Joel were found on fraudulent assistance from the government or using somebody else's identity from Medicare or Medicaid to get a discount. So the bulk weren't all "disabled" or "poor" --- they were using fake identification cards to get a lower cost.
Then, there was more fraud.
In the headline news a few years back, there was a huge tax fraud problem in the Village of Kiryas Joel in upstate, NY.
Welfare burden, tax fraud "Kiryas Joel residents have been alleged to cheat on taxes by claiming that they have a temple, or a place of worship, in their homes. Obtaining tax relief as a house of worship means the property is excused from paying property taxes that support local services, such as public schools, roads, water and sewer, fire and police, and so on, including the funds which subsidize welfare payments.
It is the custom in Kiryas Joel for women who work outside the home to stop doing so at the birth of their second child. Most families have only one income and many children. The resulting poverty rate makes a disproportionate number of families in Kiryas Joel eligible for welfare benefits when compared to the rest of the county; and cost of welfare benefits is subsidized by taxes paid county-wide.
Per the New York Times, because of the sheer size of the families (the average household here has six people, but it is not uncommon for couples to have 8 or 10 children), and because a vast majority of households subsist on only one salary, 62 percent of the local families live below poverty level and rely heavily on public assistance [government welfare], which is another sore point among those who live in neighboring communities."
I’ve always questioned their culture and how they lived. I’d never judge them, however they stand out alone when these issues come out into the open. With this community having and saved so much money, through tax exemptions, as well as buying property all over the state, how and why are they on Medicare and welfare? As many children as they bear, it’s no wonder that poverty sometimes comes into play. Or does it? I have mixed feelings about it.
In an article in The Jewish Week of New York, they listed the scandal that rocked the community of Kiryas Joel. I knew eventually, their phony identifications would be revealed.
"Federal agents converged on the upstate chasidic community of Kiryas Joel last Thursday, sealing off part of the community in an early morning raid to catch an alleged ring of swindlers.The agents arrested nine men, including Mordechai Samet, 40, the alleged ringleader, and later charged 14 people with a total of 68 counts of cheating individuals, banks, insurance companies and the government out of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors say the arrests stemmed from a two-year investigation and that the men, whom they referred to as the Samet Group, created “an elaborate web of false information to carry out” frauds. The men allegedly created phony identities, fraudulent social security numbers and tax identification numbers in order to obtain benefits for non-existent people. Members of the group were also charged with scheming to obtain over $1 million in fraudulent small business loans, defrauding banks by using counterfeit checks totaling $6 million, and various schemes to defraud life insurance companies, and with credit card fraud stemming from an alleged pyramid scheme.
Authorities charged that men had been carrying out their scheme since 1996, and had used a sophisticated system of telephone voice-mail accounts and post office boxes to avoid being connected to their schemes.The defendants entered no plea when charged in federal court in White Plains last week. A pre-trail hearing is set for April 10, the third day of Passover.“This case demonstrates how vulnerable private companies and public entities can be when racketeering enterprises which are versed in finance and business practices use that knowledge to carry out frauds,” said the United States attorney for the Southern District in New York, Mary Jo White, who is prosecuting the case in coordination with the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Social Security Administration and the district attorneys of Rockland and Orange counties.
Calls to Samet’s home on Tuesday were not answered. His attorney, Suzanne Brody of the federal defender’s office in White Plains, did not return a message left on Tuesday.The raid on Kiryas Joel, a Satmar enclave whose efforts to create a one-district school for disabled children have created a constitutional controversy, began at 6 a.m., when agents disguised as deliverymen entered the town, according to residents.Access to some streets was denied by agents toting shotguns, said Joseph Waldman, a community activist and clothing manufacturer. He said he and other residents were upset at the extent of the operation used to apprehend alleged white-collar criminals in a community where violence is rare.
A spokesman for the FBI in New York, Joseph Valiquette, said the operation was routine. “Whenever the FBI goes out on an arrest operation, we certainly go with enough agent power to ensure everyone’s safety,” he said. “In this case we were going to arrest eight or ten people from that community. We didn’t do anything in that community that we wouldn’t do on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.” Valiquette said he was aware of no complaints from the community regarding excessive force.Another member of the Satmar community, who lives in Brooklyn but is acquainted with some of the defendants, said he was undisturbed by the agents’ methods. “Certain people think it has to do with anti-Semitism,” said Isaac Weinberger, a city employee from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “But I think they were afraid [Samet] would flee. Nobody would blame the agents how they came in. Maybe they shouldn’t have come in at 6 a.m. to wake up children, but it’s understandable.”Waldman said the arrests had caused the village residents to feel “very sad and ashamed. This gives a very bad name to the community. I hope the accusations are untrue. It doesn’t help this particular community and the chasidic community as a whole.”In addition to Samet, the other defendants are Chaim Hollender and Moses Weiss, both 25; Kalmen Eisenberg, 24; Moses Perl, 34; Hershber Hirsch, 23; Yishrael Leibowitz, 39; Cheskel Samet, 23; Yuda Weiss, 33; David Hershkowitz, 22; Yehuda Steinberg, 30; Joseph Jacob, 32; Aaron Solinsky, 62 and Chaim Wiesel, 33.
The defendants face a range of charges, the most serious being racketeering, which carries a sentence of 20 years, faced by Samet and seven others. Other charges brought against members of the group include money laundering, wire fraud, false statements and bank fraud. The latter charge carries a 30-year sentence."
My question is, did they need to resort to this, due to healthcare and other provisions that are needed when possibly intermarrying? Or is it just purely out of money and wealth?
Just recently, it was reported that during the time of elections, there was even more fraudulent activity brewing in Kiryas Joel. An article from the Hudson Valley News 12 reported this: "Nasty accusations are flying in Monroe amid an unresolved election for town supervisor. Democrat Harley Doles leads the race over Republican Sandy Leonard and United Monroe candidate Emily Convers. However, Convers claims the front-runner engaged in voter intimidation, electioneering and harassment near a local polling place. A video reportedly captures Doles handing out ballots near a polling place."
During the elections, they handed out ballots seen below that excluded row H --- the opposition candidates.
During election, this was distributed within Kiryas Joel. The translation of this flyer reads, "The KJ haters have ganged up with the village of Monroe under the name united. United to destroy us as they openly write, they will throw a rock to block every step of the way. They have come up with antics lately like we have never seen before if god forbid they win they will destroy us."
In another article found from The Hudson Valley News 12: "The Monroe Free Library is now excluding residents of the community of Kiryas Joel. Library officials say that anyone is welcome to the library, but they won't be able to take out books. The library says it's not a religious issue, but rather a financial one. According to the library, Kiryas Joel has not paid taxes toward the library since 2005 as part of an agreement that would let them build their own library. Under a state agreement, people with a Kiryas Joel address no longer have borrowing privileges, although they can still use the resources inside the library."
They never want to play fair.