FBI Is Raiding Orange County Hasidic Village Of Kiryas Joel

Federal agents are currently conducting searches in the ultra-Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel in Orange County, New York. A spokeswoman for the FBI confirmed an ongoing search but declined to comment further.

Outside that four-story brick yeshiva, at 16A Getzil Berger Boulevard, a Journal News reporter observed at least seven law enforcement officials carrying items out of the building, most of them wearing FBI jackets.

The purpose of the raids is as yet unclear. According to reports from the scene on Twitter, about 15 FBI agents entered the United Talmudical Academy, a local yeshiva, shortly after 10:00 a.m. accompanied by a local sheriff and agents from the Sullivan County DA’s office. News 12 reports that the agents are also executing search warrants at the village’s public safety building.

It was not immediately clear whether the raids were connected to earlier search warrants executed at ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in Rockland County in mid-March. Those raids targeted possible misuse of federal “e-rate” technology funding by religious schools. Several warrants were executed in Kiryas Joel that day and a grand jury continues to meet in that case.

A separate or related probe that led to searches in Williamsburg, Brooklyn that same day was possibly targeting school lunch program spending, according to a report in The Forward.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office had no comment Thursday on the situation unfolding in Kiryas Joel.

Capt. Scott Hamill of the Orange County Sheriff’s department called it an FBI investigation, referring questions to that agency. He said sheriff’s deputies provided assistance to the FBI in the matter.

The raids come a week after two videos surfaced on the internet said to show a principal at the United Talmudical Academy in close physical contact with young boys, prompting a state police investigation.

The school on Tuesday issued a statement defending him and denying that any abuse occurred. It said the videos have been mischaracterized by the media and critics of the Hasidic community.

3 replies
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Dozens of FBI agents raided a Satmar hassidic yeshiva in Kiryas Joel in New York on Thursday, apparently as part of an investigation of a child pornography case according to WABC, although conflicting reports pointed to a corruption investigation.

    The agents, together with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Sullivan County District Attorney, used search warrants at the United Talmudical Academy, a school where the principal was recently caught on tape doing improper conduct with a boy.

    The yeshiva earlier this week issued a statement saying the conduct that was filmed does not constitute a “criminal assault.”

    “In these videos, the school principal is seen embracing the students who were sent to his office for behavioral issues. While this type of restraint may be unacceptable to some viewers, it in no way rises to the level of a criminal assault,” read the statement.

    It detailed that the principal for the past 30 years has an “unblemished professional record as an educator.”

    It remains unclear if the investigation is directly connected to the footage, as specifics of the case remain under wraps.

    There are conflicting reports that the investigation may instead be connected to suspicions of corruption.

    Yeshiva World News reports the yeshiva is under investigation for the federal E-Rate program, which provides funds for internet connectivity in private schools.

  2. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    KIRYAS JOEL – FBI agents and other law enforcement officials are conducting a number of raids across this ultra-Orthodox village Thursday, including at a property run by the United Talmudical Academy.

    Outside that four-story brick yeshiva, at 16A Getzil Berger Blvd., a Journal News reporter observed at least seven law enforcement officials — most wearing FBI jackets — carrying items out of the building. Authorities left the scene about 1:20 p.m.

    An Orange County Sheriff’s patrol car could also be seen blocking the entrance to the Kiryas Joel Public Safety building on Forest Road as FBI agents investigated inside.

    U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office and an FBI spokeswoman had no comment Thursday.

    Orange County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Hamill called it an FBI investigation, referring questions to that agency. He said sheriff’s deputies provided assistance to the FBI. Sullivan County District Attorney’s office investigators were also seen at the public safety center.

    The raids come a week after two videos surfaced on the Internet said to show a principal at the United Talmudical Academy in close physical contact with young boys, prompting a state police investigation.

    The school on Tuesday issued a statement defending him and denying that any abuse occurred. It said the videos have been mischaracterized by the media and critics of the Hasidic community.

    A spokesman for the primarily Satmar Hasidic village, Ari Felberman, has not returned calls, and a receptionist at the village offices said he was not available.

    Wolf Gluck, a UTA administrator, has not responded to any inquiries from The Journal News since the videos were posted online last week.

    As word spread through the village about the raids, residents said they had no idea about the details.

    One shopper at the main strip mall on Forest Road, Billy Fried, said he had not heard about them but would be surprised if they had to do with the videos, which he had heard about but had not seen.

    “I know (the principal) for 40 years. He’s a very warm, honest, upstanding gentleman,” Fried said. “My kids who had him as a teacher say the same thing. I would bet a million dollars on this man.”

    Search warrants were previously executed by federal and local authorities in mid-March at ultra-Orthodox yeshivas in Rockland County and several locations in Kiryas Joel targeting possible misuse of federal “e-rate” technology funding by religious schools. A grand jury continues to meet in that case.

    A separate or related probe that led to searches in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that same day was possibly targeting school lunch program spending, according to a report in The Forward.

  3. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. — A federal probe in this predominantly ultra-Orthodox village is focusing on child-abuse allegations at a school and how authorities responded to them, a law-enforcement source said Friday.

    On Thursday, FBI agents executed search warrants at United Talmudical Academy school buildings and at a trailer that houses the village Department of Public Safety. They spent about four hours in each location and left with boxes of documents and equipment.

    The raids came a week after two videos were posted on the Internet showing a school principal in close physical contact with young male students. The principal is not being identified because no charges have been filed.

    The videos, purportedly taken several months ago, came from a ceiling camera in the office of the 67-year-old principal. The identity of those who hid the camera and leaked the videos has not been revealed publicly.

    The school’s board of directors issued a statement this week defending the principal as a well-regarded, longtime educator in the village and insisting that no abuse occurred. United Talmudical Academy is a private Jewish school with almost 6,000 students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

    The principal has not returned numerous calls in the past week, and his wife said last week he had nothing to say to a reporter. On Thursday, a neighbor said the couple was away, but the law enforcement official, who asked not to be named because the individual is not an official spokesperson, said the principal was at the school when the raids occurred and has continued working at the school since the controversy erupted last week.

    On May 2, the state police launched an investigation in conjunction with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and county Child Abuse Unit after a call to the state child-abuse hot line directed them to the first video that had been posted online.

    State police Maj. Joseph Tripodo, commander at Troop F headquarters in Pomona, N.Y., said a similar video investigated in the fall did not result in criminal charges. The child-abuse unit, which the state police supervises, conducted that probe.

    While District Attorney’s investigators from Orange and Sullivan counties assisted federal agents in Thursday’s raids, New York State Police had no involvement.

    Tripodo said Thursday that he knew of no connection between the videos and the federal raids taking place in the village. He could not be reached immediately Friday.

    Moses Witriol, the village’s public safety director, also could not be reached for comment Friday.

    Someone who answered the phone at the public safety department referred calls to Ari Felberman, who handles government relations for the village. He did not return a phone message.

    On Thursday, the village issued a statement saying officials there had “fully cooperated” with law-enforcement requests while agents were at the public safety building.

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