Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A rabbi from Queens is among four men accused of stealing $12.4 million from a special needs preschool and using the money on their homes and businesses

Rabbi Samuel Hiller, of Far Rockaway, Queens, Ira Kurman, of Hewlett, Roy Hoffmann, of Woodmere, and Daniel Laniado, of Brooklyn, all were scheduled to be arraigned in state Supreme Court in Queens. They were to face a 42-count indictment charging them with grand larceny, identity theft, offering a false instrument for filing and falsifying business records, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Queens County District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a joint statement. The foursome, all of whom were connected with the Island Child Development Center in Queens, acted in "brazen disregard for common decency and the law," DiNapoli said. The Island Child Development Center is a nonprofit that serves primarily Orthodox Jewish special-needs children between the ages of 3 and 5. It received $27 million in funding from New York State between 2005 and 2012, when officials first suspected something was wrong. Hiller, 56, used $8 million earmarked for the center to finance religious schools and camps that weren't affiliated with ICDC. He also used $30,000 to pay for plumbing at his house. Kurman, 52, gave out loans totaling $143,000 in center funds to community members who then repaid him with goods and services. Among the services was catering for his daughter's wedding and his son's bar mitzvah. Hoffmann, 50, remodeled his home using $300,000 of the center's money and gave his wife $15,000 for her makeup business. Prosecutors contend Laniado, 41, cashed more than $1 million in ICDC checks. DiNapoli's office caught onto the irregularities in 2012 when Kurman, the center's former executive director, fled with the center's books shortly before a routine state audit. Hiller has been identified as ICDC's assistant director, Hoffmann as its auditor and Laniado as an "investor" in the center. Each defendant faces 25 years in prison if convicted. The DA's officials also has sought repayment of more than $11.4 million. A camp and school associated with Hiller already have repaid close to $1 million.

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