New York – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced that David Cohen, former executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (Met Council), has been sentenced to one year in jail.
Cohen has also paid $650,000 in restitution to Met Council. The joint investigation revealed that Cohen, together with former Met Council CEO William Rapfogel and other co-conspirators, stole approximately $9 million from the taxpayer-funded nonprofit organization as part of a 20-year grand larceny and kickback scheme. Cohen personally stole approximately $650,000 from Met Council.
“Today, we have held all of the Met Council conspirators accountable for their roles in this massive theft, which ripped off some of the neediest New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.
“With this case, as well as the cases that we have brought against more than 60 other public officials and their cronies, our message is clear: No matter who you are, if you steal from New York charities that receive taxpayer dollars, you will face justice.
Through my partnership with Comptroller DiNapoli, we will continue to pursue anyone who violates the public’s trust.”
“This sentencing concludes a distressing and lengthy theft of funds meant to help New York’s neediest citizens,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“I hope these six prosecutions, and nearly $9 million in restitution, will serve as a warning to those who might contemplate similar behavior.
I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his work on this case and commend him for his efforts in our Operation Integrity partnership to investigate and prosecute those who steal from the public.”
Cohen previously pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the First Degree (a class B felony), Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony) and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony).
As part of his guilty plea, Cohen admitted that from 1992 to 2013, he conspired with co-defendant William Rapfogel and others to steal from Met Council through an elaborate kickback scheme.
Today, Cohen was allowed with withdraw his plea to Grand Larceny in the First Degree and was sentenced by the Honorable Michael Obus in New York County Supreme Court on the crimes of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree to one year in jail.
Cohen also paid $650,000 in restitution to Met Council.
Cohen resigned as CEO of the Chevra Hatzalah volunteer ambulance service in September 2013 amid the allegations of fraud.
Cohen is the last of six conspirators in the Met Council scheme to be sentenced for his role in the theft. Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli have also secured the return of nearly $9 million that was stolen from the Met Council.
Met Council is a New York State not-for-profit organization that provides the poor and elderly in the New York City area with social, economic, housing, food and emergency financial assistance. Met Council receives funding through New York State and New York City grants, legislative member items and contracts.
The conspiracy began in 1992, when Cohen devised a scheme with Joseph Ross of Century Coverage Corporation, an insurance company that serviced Met Council. Century Coverage Corporation would submit inflated invoices for insurance coverage to the nonprofit. Met Council knowingly paid the inflated premiums, and then Ross gave cash kickbacks to Cohen and Herb Friedman, Met Council’s former chief financial officer.
In 1993, William Rapfogel took over as the head of Met Council, and Cohen served as a consultant to the nonprofit.
About six months after Rapfogel took over as Met Council executive director, he joined the conspiracy and began receiving kickbacks, either in envelopes of cash or through payments of personal expenses.
Initially, Ross paid both Rapfogel and Cohen $20,000 to $30,000 annually, but the inflated amount on the insurance policies increased over time and so did the kickbacks, with Rapfogel ultimately receiving approximately $30,000 per month.
In July 2014, William Rapfogel was convicted and sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison, and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution to Met Council. Herb Friedman was convicted and sentenced to four months in jail, and ordered to pay $775,000 in restitution to Met Council.
In February 2015, Solomon Ross and William Lieber, former insurance brokers for Met Council, were each sentenced to five years of probation and $1.5 million in restitution. In March 2015, Joseph Ross was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail, $534,000 in restitution to Met Council, and a judgment in the amount of $956,000 in favor of Met Council.
This conviction and sentence are the result of a joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office in conjunction with New York State Comptroller DiNapoli, as part of the Joint Task Force on Public Integrity.
Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli would like to thank the New York City Department of Investigation, the New York State Department of Financial Services and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their assistance with the investigation.