The director of a prominent Lakewood school for children with special needs, charged in a May indictment with stealing more than $630,000 in public money, will appear before a judge next week.
Rabbi Osher Eisemann will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Monday in Courtroom 307 at the Middlesex County Courthouse, according to his attorney, Lee Vartan. Eisemann is expected to plead not guilty to a host of theft and other charges, Vartan said.
Eisemann, 60, of Lakewood, is the founder and director of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence, better known as SCHI (pronounced “shy”). He was indicted by a state grand jury on charges of theft by unlawful taking, misapplication of government property, misconduct by a corporate official and money laundering — all second-degree offenses that carry up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
The school’s fundraising foundation, the nonprofit Services for Hidden Intelligence LLC, was also named in the indictment with the same charges. The school itself was not charged.
State Attorney General Christopher Porrino said the school provided money to the fundraising foundation, instead of the other way around, and that Eisemann allegedly used the foundation’s bank accounts to fund ventures that had no connection to the school.
SCHI receives around $1.8 million each month from the Lakewood School District and surrounding public school districts that send students to SCHI, Porrino said.
The school provides educational services for the “medically fragile, and socially emotionally challenged children,” according to its website.
Although the tuition money for SCHI is expected to “be used strictly for operating expenses of school,” Porrino said Eisemann allegedly used the fundraising foundation to take out around $430,000 to invest in a business associate’s now-defunct clothing line, called TAZ Apparel LLC, which was based in Highland Park. No one associated with TAZ could be reached for comment.
Neither the school nor the fundraising foundation had any interest in TAZ Apparel, Porrino said, and Eisemann allegedly invested in the clothing line as a “personal investment.” Authorities from the Division of Criminal Justice reportedly found contracts between Eisemann and the owner of TAZ Apparel, in which Eisemann agreed to finance a maximum of $550,000 in the business while the owner — who Porrino did not name — would manage the day-to-day operations. The grand jury said the payments were made between 2011 and 2015.
Eisemann is charged with transferring money from the school’s operating account into the accounts of the fundraising foundation, then sending around $277,000 to TAZ using checks and wire transfers, Porrino said. Eisemann also is accused of paying TAZ Apparel’s credit card bills — $153,000 in American Express fees, according to the charges.
Eisemann allegedly funneled an additional $200,000 from the school operating’s account through the fundraising accounts, which Porrino said was illegally laundered to make it look as if Eisemann was repaying debts to the school using his own money.
The $200,000 allegedly traveled through the school, then was transferred between “several unrelated entities,” individual people — including TAZ Apparel — and back into Eisemann’s personal bank account. Porrino said the alleged money-laundering was carried out over six days in March 2015.
Jeff Ifrah, the school’s lawyer, said that Eisemann is “not denying a loan was made.” He said that Eisemann, though, used his own money for the loans. “His full intent was that the loan would be repaid.”
Eisemann, through his attorney, has denied all wrongdoing.
הרב אשר אייזמן, מנהל בית ספר לחינוך מיוחד בליקווד שנעצר לפני מספר חודשים בחשד למעילה בגובה של 630 אלף דולרים מהקופה הציבורית, צפוי להופיע בשבוע הבא בפני שופט לקראת הגשת כתב אישום נגדו. גורמים בפרלקיטות טענו כי הרב אייזמן צפוי להודות באשמת גניבה ובאישומים נוספים.
הרב אייזמן (60), תושב ליקווד שהקים את בית הספר לילדים בעלי צרכים מיוחדים בעיירה, נעצר בחשד למעילה וגניבת כספים מהממשלה, שימוש לרעה ברכוש ממשלתי, התנהגות לא הולמת והלבנת הון, עבירות שהעונש המרבי עליהן הוא עד עשר שנות מאסר וקנס כספי גבוה.
הפרקליטות טוענת כי מנהל בית הספר עשה שימוש שלא כדין בעמותה שניהלה את בית הספר והשתמש בחשבונות הבנק של בית הספר כדי לממן מיזמים אחרים שאינם קשורים לפעילות המוסד – בחלקם מיזמים עסקיים פרטיים שלו.
עורכי דינו של הרב אייזמן טוענים כי הכספים שהועברו דרך בית הספר היו בעצם הלוואה, והיה בכוונת מרשם לפרוע אותה בעתיד. לטענתם, אייזמן מכחיש כי ביצע עבירות פליליות.
Israel had long sought to block the sale, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.
The Israeli Air Force has trained for a scenario in which it would have to carry out strikes in Syria or Iran on facilities defended by the S-300.
In a 2015 interview, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF.
The state initially found in the audit that the school had overbilled by around $1 million, but the school is fighting the findings in court, saying that some of the charges were appropriate. The appeals process is ongoing in the state’s administrative law division.
The school, commonly called SCHI (pronounced “shy”), won’t have to reimburse the full $1 million noted in the audit, said Lisa McCormick, an audit manager with the state Department of Education. That’s because it has successfully appealed a few of the audit findings. The state claimed that the school was employing too many instructors, that it was overpaying administrators and that it couldn’t charge for unpaid lunches. Those three findings were overturned, meaning SCHI won’t have to reimburse $563,164.
Still, McCormick said it’s likely that SCHI would have to reimburse at least $341,000 to Lakewood and other school districts for overbilling on salaries for uncertified teachers, salaries that exceeded the maximum allowed by the state and for buying unrelated items. Some of the audit’s other findings are still being decided.
“This is one of the highest money amounts we’ve found recently” in private school audits, McCormick said about the overbilling.
In New Jersey, public school districts must pay tuition for disabled students to attend private schools if the public school can’t offer adequate care. In Lakewood, that often means sending students to SCHI. Other school districts also send children to SCHI, including Toms River, Long Branch and Manalapan.
Lakewood paid more than $22 million to the school in the 2016-2017 school year, up from $18 million in the 2014-2015 school year. Average annual tuition at SCHI is around $97,000 per student.
It’s unclear if SCHI has similarly overcharged Lakewood’s school district in the school years since 2011-2012. The state only audits private schools for students with disabilities every six years. All other years, such schools are required to hire an independent auditor to review their books.
Those independent audits show that SCHI overcharged school districts by about $60,000 total in the last three school years, according to documents obtained by the Press.
Mike Azzara, a state-appointed monitor of Lakewood’s school district and a former chief auditor in the state, questioned the independence of those audits. He said the district doesn’t get full financial reports each year.
What has happened is there’s a real hesitation on the department’s side to challenge these private schools,” Azzara said about the state DOE.
Among the illegitimate charges noted in the audit were $13,219 in items that were shipped to a residential address of an undisclosed employee and $10,523 in goods purchased in Pennsylvania.