Semen Domnitser, ringleader of the $57.3 million fraud against the Claims Conference, was sentenced this week to eight years in prison, ordered to forfeit $59,230 and to pay restitution totaling $57.3 million.
Shortly before Manhattan Federal Judge Thomas P. Griesa imposed the sentence on Domnitser, 55, of Brooklyn for mail fraud, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told the court that Domnitser had “played an integral role in the scheme by processing fraudulent applications to the Conference and turning a profit of thousands of dollars for himself.”
Domnitser, who was convicted May 8 following a one-month trial, had served as director of the two defrauded programs that were established by the government of Germany to help Jewish Holocaust survivors. The crime continued for more than a decade and was not discovered by employees of the Claims Conference, which administers the programs, until November 2009. Federal authorities were alerted a month later after an internal audit confirmed the fraud.
In addition to Domnitser, two others were convicted at trial and 28 others pleaded guilty to their role in the conspiracy. Nineteen of them have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to three years; the others are still awaiting sentencing.
Thus far, $5.2 million has been recovered from those who wrongly received the money; they have pledged an additional $3.7 million. Aside from Domnitser, those sentenced were ordered to forfeit a total of $1 million and ordered to pay restitution of $11.38 million. More forfeitures and restitution are expected when the rest of the conspirators are sentenced. Finally, the Claims Conference is to receive $3 million from its insurance policy.
In a statement, Julius Berman, chairman of the Claims Conference, said: “Four years after our discovery of the fraud, we are finally able to put this behind us and continue, as we have throughout, focusing on our core mission of helping Holocaust victims and advocating for them.”