Lakewood, NJ – 6 More Lakewood Couples Charged In Benefits Fraud Probe

Lakewood, NJ – Six more couples were charged with theft Thursday as part of an investigation that has uncovered more than $2 million in public welfare benefits going to New Jersey families that made too much to receive them.

Prosecutors in Ocean County say the six couples received nearly $400,000 combined in Medicaid, food, heating and other benefits.

The charges by summons come after seven other married couples in the town of Lakewood were charged with similar crimes last month.

Those arrested as part of the joint state, federal and county investigation include a rabbi and the former leader of a Jewish religious school.

The investigation is continuing, and more arrests are likely.

The town has seen huge population growth with an influx of ultra-Orthodox families, and the charges have been met with some anti-Semitic backlash.

Vandals cited the reports in fliers posted on cars around town last week and posted a banner containing an anti-Jewish slur on a Holocaust memorial in front of a synagogue.

A message on the banner included an ethnic slur for Jewish people and stated they “will not divide us,” along with the name of a group supposedly responsible for it.

State authorities announced Sunday they were offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to conviction of those responsible.

Religious leaders in the town have spoken out against the welfare fraud allegations, but also to make sure people don’t use the investigation to condemn the entire community.

“We have a failure in our community that we have to address,” Rabbi Aaron Kotler, leader of the world’s largest yeshiva outside of Israel, told NJ.com. “Theft is wrong. We need to do better to educate people.”

Members of the Vaad, a group of religious leaders and business owners in the town, acknowledged that the problem may be linked to the number of rabbinical students in Lakewood’s numerous yeshivas. Many qualify for poverty relief while studying, and Vaad members said the students need to do a better job of leaving public assistance once they begin making money.

“The challenge for the Orthodox community is to get these students quickly into the workforce,” kosher grocery story owner Abe Muller told NJ.com, “where they pay taxes like everybody else, and make them understand the rules.”

A lawyer for one of those charged last week said that everyone arrested will be vindicated.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the couples had lawyers to comment on their behalf. Phone messages left with those who had listed numbers were not returned.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Six more couples were busted for alleged welfare fraud in Lakewood, NJ, officials said Thursday, adding to a growing list of suspected cheats from that shore town.

    FBI agents and investigators with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office’s Economic Crimes Unit knocked on doors at about 6 a.m. on Thursday, handing over charging documents and court dates for them to appear between now and Tuesday.

    The most recently arrested are accused to scoring nearly $400,000 in elaborate schemes to get Medicaid, food and home energy benefits when they weren’t eligible for them.

    “The nature of the criminal events investigated and basic charges allege that the defendants misrepresented their income, declaring amounts that were low enough to receive the program’s benefits, when in fact their income was too high to qualify,” according to a statement from Ocean County prosecutors.

    “The investigations revealed that the defendants received income from numerous sources that they failed to disclose on required program applications.”

    Ocean County prosecutors charged 14 Lakewood residents last week, accusing them bilking taxpayers of more than $2 million.

    The 12 newly named defendants were:

    Eliezer and Elkie Sorotzkin, 33 and 31, were accused of wrongfully collecting $74,960 in Medicaid funds between January 2011 and December 2013.
    Samuel and Esther Serhofer, 45 and 44, allegedly pocketed $72,685 in Medicaid between January 2009 to December 2013.
    Yisroel and Rachel Merkin, 37 and 34, are suspected of improperly taking home $70,557,51 in Medicaid, food and home energy benefits between January 2011 and December 2014.
    Jerome Menchel, 33, and Mottel Friedman, 30, were accused of wrongly scoring $63,839 in Medicaid and food benefits between January 2011 and July 2014.
    Tzvi and Estee Braun, 35 and 34, were busted for allegedly ripping off $62,746.74 in Medicaid, food and children’s medical benefits between January 2009 and December 2013.
    Moche and Nechama Hirschmann, 30 and 27, are suspected of wrongfully collecting $53,418.39 in Medicaid and food benefits between January 2011 and December 2015.
    A rep for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office declined to say if the defendants know each other or worked in concert.

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