WILLIAMSBURG — Two former administrators for a Hasidic school system conned a federal food program out of more than $3 million over a two-year stretch by seeking reimbursements for meals they never served, prosecutors said.
Elozer Porges, 43, and Joel Lowy, 29, who worked at the Central United Talmudic Academy (CUTA), were indicted on wire and mail fraud charges in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday.
Porges, the executive director, and Lowy, the assistant director, submitted paperwork to the state Department of Health inflating the numbers of meals served at CUTA schools to get bigger reimbursement checks from the federal government, prosecutors said.
The scheme took place over a roughly two-year stretch beginning in October 2013, according to court papers.
Porges and Lowy indicated that dinner would be served five days a week when, in fact, it wasn’t, the documents charge.
They both pleaded not guilty at their arraignments. Porges was released on $500,000 bond, while Lowy was released on $200,000 bond, court records show.
They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Their school network's South Williamsburg locations have long been eyed by investigators, and with two of its Yeshiva sites raided in March 2016 as part of a corruption probe.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney called Porges' and Lowy's conduct “inexcusable.”
“The Child and Adult Care Food Program strives to provide for at-risk children, and as school officials, Porges and Lowy should have strived to do the same,” Sweeney said in a statement.
“To defraud programs designed to help those in need is simply inexcusable, and we will work relentlessly with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate these frauds.”
Lowy's lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said his client was just following orders.
"Mr. Lowy is a low-level administrative assistant in the school who followed direction which he believed to be correct," Agnifilo wrote in an email. "He is loved in his community and will fight this case."
Porges' lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.