LAKEWOOD — A prominent rabbi and several others were arrested in simultaneous federal and state raids Monday morning on charges related to alleged public assistance fraud on a scale rarely seen before in New Jersey.
Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin, who runs the synagogue Congregation Lutzk and other businesses linked to the synagogue, was taken into custody Monday and is en route to face a judge in Superior Court in Toms River.
Also arrested in the sting headed by the FBI, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and other agencies were Zalmen’s wife, Tzipporah Sorotzkin, and married couple Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin.
The three also face state criminal charges, according to a source close to the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
Four others were arrested Monday and are being taken to Trenton to face federal charges in U.S. District Court. They are Mordechai Sorotzkin, brother of Zalmen, and his wife, Rachel Sorotzkin, and Shimi and Yocheved Nussbaum. View the map below for the locations of the homes raided or attempted to be raided Monday.
The Lakewood residents are accused of taking advantage of multiple public assistance programs to defraud the government of around $1.3 million over the past few years, according to law enforcement sources.
FBI agents taking Shimi and Yocheved Nussbaum into custody. The pair are accused of a welfare fraud scheme. Six others were arrested Monday. pic.twitter.com/tFzznDLzE5
— Payton Guion (@PaytonGuion) June 26, 2017
“The investigation to date has found that government-benefits fraud and income tax evasion in the Lakewood community is widespread,” said the source.
The investigation found an alleged scheme that “rival the most sophisticated of financial frauds,” the source said.
As of early Monday, the indictments in the case have not yet been unsealed and the specific charges remain unknown.
The four couples are accused of vastly underreporting their incomes to illegally obtain Medicaid, Section 8 housing assistance, food stamps, Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income, according to the source.
— Alex Gecan (@GeeksterTweets) June 26, 2017
It is alleged that the couples made tens of thousands dollars more per year than they reported to the public assistance programs, a law enforcement source said.
Authorities were able to determine that the families allegedly misrepresented their incomes partly by tracing illegal money transfers made at a Lakewood beeper store, according to the source.
The owner of Beepers Plus on Clifton Avenue pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to transmitting millions of dollars without a license, an indictable offense in New Jersey. Watch the video below for an Asbury Park Press report on the beeper store.
By looking at some of those transfers, along with private school tuition records and withdrawals from a state fund that pays medical fees for sick children whose parents can’t afford their care, investigators uncovered the alleged fraud, the source said.