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09 Tuesday

Manhattan feds charge 17 people with massive $42.5M Holocaust reparations fraud

Seventeen people were busted for plundering a whopping $42.5 million meant to help survivors of the the Nazi Holocaust -- and instead gave the cash to people who were not eligible by forging documents and getting kickbacks in return, federal prosecutors announced today.

Employees of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which administered the programs, were supposed to process and approve legitimate applications.

Instead, they allegedly approved over 5,500 fraudulent ones over the past 16 years and was first discovered in December 2009, resulting in payouts to applicants who did not qualify for the programs.

The feds said that in exchange, these insiders kept a portion of the money for themselves.

"If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference, which every day assists thousands of poor and elderly victims of Nazi persecution," said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

"Sadly, those victim funds were themselves victimized. Without the extraordinary cooperation of the Claims Conference in ferreting out this alleged scheme to defraud them, it never would have been exposed."

The feds said ringleader Semen Domnitser signed off on fraudulent applications from more than 4,000 people. Overall, 450,000 applications that are legitimate have been processed.

Five of the 17 people arrested had been busted in the past; four of them are currently cooperating with the FBI against Domnitser and the others.

The fund was set up so that victims can claim payments if they can show they survived the Holocaust.

03 Monday

Rabbi busted in cop \'hit\'

A Brooklyn rabbi was charged yesterday in the contract killing of a former suburban police officer and his nephew, authorities said.

Victor Koltun, 41 -- whose rap sheet includes mortgage-fraud allegations -- is accused of hiring two ex-cons to kill Frank Piscopo, 49, and Gerald Piscopo, 28, in Newburgh, Orange County.

Both Piscopos were found dead Nov. 4.

Frank had been a police sergeant in the Ulster County town of Lloyd before he quit in 1990 amid allegations he stole items from the department. He had a criminal record that included arrests for theft and drug selling, the Times Herald-Record of Middletown reported.

Gerald had been deep in credit-card debt and emerged from personal bankruptcy in March. He had spent 2½ years in state prison from 2003 to 2005 on burglary charges.

Koltun, of Sheepshead Bay, already faces a possible 15-year prison term on separate charges that he pocketed proceeds of a $225,000 mortgage on several Brooklyn houses he did not own.