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Satmar Leader Linked to Mayor Arrested For $30K Food-Stamp Fraud, Feds Say

By Gwynne Hogan | December 22, 2016 5:08pm
 FBI agents raided the UTA Central Yeshiva at 76 Rutledge St. Thursday, March 17, 2016.
FBI agents raided the UTA Central Yeshiva at 76 Rutledge St. Thursday, March 17, 2016.
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DNAinfo/Ellen Moynihan

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio who oversees government relations for a network of yeshivas was charged for running a $30,000 federal food-stamp scam, according to a criminal complaint.

Yitzchok Iziel (Isaac) Sofer was arrested by the FBI Thursday morning for filing false claims under the federal food subsidy, SNAP, between 2012 and 2016. He claimed poverty while at the same time taking out a life insurance policy in which he reported making $100,000 per year and having $600,000 in assets, Brooklyn federal prosecutors charged.

Sofer collected $30,516 in food stamps during that period, according to the federal complaint.

His arrest comes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, the indictment stated, though prosecutors would not say if was related to a March raid of the Central United Talmudical Academy's offices. 

At CUTA, Sofer oversees government relations for a group of yeshivas in Williamsburg, Borough Park and at schools upstate, according to the Jewish Forward, which first reported his arrest. 

The yeshivas cater to the Orthodox Satmar community called Aaronis, after Grand Rabbi Aron Teitelbaum.

Sofer helped fundraise for Mayor Bill de Blaiso's election in 2013, according to WNYC, and following the election he boasted of the CUTA's ability to turn out voters in larger droves than the other sect of the Satmar community known as Zalis, DNAinfo New York previously reported.

Michael Tobman, a political consultant who works with the Aroni Satmar and often serves as a spokesman for the organization, claimed the charges against Sofer have nothing to do CUTA.

"It's apparent this is a personal matter having nothing to do with the community, or its institutions," he said. "I am sure, when all the facts come to light, this arrest will be revealed as a federal overreach, and more appropriate for a civil proceeding."

Workers at the Central United Talmudical Academy hung up the phone when asked to comment.

In September, the feds cracked down on three Williamsburg couples for food-stamp fraud and other federal charges.

Sofer was set to be arraigned in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday afternoon, prosecutors said.

He faces a five-year maximum sentence.

Complaint Against Isaac Sofer by DNAinfoNewYork on Scribd