Seven Monsey residents were arrested yesterday on suspicion of defrauding the government for an estimated $14 million in a case that exploded about a year ago, but whose reverberations continue to affect the local haredi community.
It is suspected that Brooklyn County board administrators used a state-sponsored program to increase access to computers and the Internet to purchase computers and other equipment.
The FBI called the fraud "outrageous" because the administrators made use of money intended to increase exposure to the Internet during a haredi public campaign against Internet exposure.
"This indictment is important not only because fraudsters should be responsible for their crimes, but also because the next generation of students should have access to communications services, access to the Internet, and related equipment," the State Attorney was quoted as saying.
"Schools have to fight for every dollar these days to supply their students with the high-tech, expensive equipment and technology they need in this day and age to succeed in life," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney about the indictments. "The suspects in this investigation allegedly used funding from a program designed to give underprivileged schools internet access to pad their own bank accounts. To add insult to injury, school officials, who see the day-to-day struggle to even find money for pencils and paper, were allegedly involved in the scheme."
Prosecutors allege that in some cases the school listed on the application would not have allowed its students to use the classroom technology while in others the school did receive technology, but the program was over-billed and the defendants pocketed the difference, reported Patch.
In one example the school in question was a day care center serving 2-4-year-olds that applied for funding for technology including video-conferencing, distance learning, and high-speed internet, and received almost $500,000.
In return for participating in the scheme, prosecutors allege school officials took cellphones and security and alarm systems not covered under the program for staffers' personal use.