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8 new arrests in $57 million fraud at Claims Conference

NEW YORK (JTA) — Eight additional people were arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the fraud at the Claims Conference, which now tops $57 million.

The arrests Oct. 12 brought the total number of arrests in the case to 30.

Of the eight new suspects named by the U.S. Attorney’s Office — Henry Gordin, Genrikh Kolontyrskiy, Viktor Levin, Ella Voskresenskiy, Zlata Blavatnik, Pyotr Blavatnik, Yevgeniya Abramovich and Asya Galindo — five are former Claims Conference employees. A ninth suspect, Lana Kagan, was expected to voluntarily surrender to the authorities on Oct. 13, the FBI said.

The suspects are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

"These defendants had a hand in fabricating, filing or processing nearly five thousand fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Claims Conference funds have been drained of $57 million meant for Holocaust victims, and a large portion of the diverted money went into the pockets of corrupt insiders."

The inquiry into the fraud at the Claims Conference, which has been carried out cooperatively by Claims Conference officials and the FBI, was discovered in November 2009 but dated back at least to 1993. The investigation has uncovered 3,839 false claims with the Hardship Fund and 1,112 false claims with the Article 2 fund.

Germany created the Hardship Fund to provide one-time payments of approximately $3,500 to Jews who fled the Nazis as they swept through Europe. The Article 2 fund, also funded by Germany, pays monthly pensions of about $400 to victims of Nazi persecution who meet certain criteria related to time spent in a concentration camp and current income levels.

In a recent interview with JTA, Gregory Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, said the fraud figure likely will continue to rise until the investigation is concluded and all involved are brought to justice. So far, 626 recipients of payments due to the fraud — most of whom are thought to have participated unwittingly in the scheme — have repaid or agreed to repay the money they were sent, amounting to about $4.7 million. Of that, the Claims Conference has recouped $1.7 million and has agreed to installment payments for $3 million more.

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