Chicago man pleads guilty in $54 million scam


(JTA) — A Chicago man who presented himself as a rabbi and allegedly ran a scam that stole $54 million has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

Marvin Berkowitz, 64, who fled to Israel in 2003 to avoid arrest in a separate case, appeared Jan. 14 before a federal judge in Chicago. He is accused of stealing the identities of about 3,000 dead people and federal prisoners to file for tax refunds in 28 U.S. states, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Berkowitz allegedly ran the scam from Israel. He was arrested there in August 2009.

About 10 people participated in the scam, including several Berkowitz family members. His son David Berkowitz has pleaded guilty in the case.

Marvin Berkowitz allegedly used more than 50 people to help with the scam by accepting the bogus tax refunds and then giving him the money. Berkowitz often posed as a rabbi, an attorney or an accountant, the court documents said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Berkowitz faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, as well as mandatory restitution, according to the Sun-Times. His sentencing will take place in June.

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