London synagogue honors Ponzi scammer at Sabbath services


(JTA) — Leaders of a synagogue in London apologized for giving an honor to a convicted fraudster two days before he was sentenced to six years in prison for his crimes.

Freddy David, who defrauded 55 people, mostly Jewish, of nearly $19 million, was called up to the bimah of his Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue in London on Saturday during Shabbat services. David performed an aliyah — a ceremony in which a member of a Jewish congregation reads a blessing before a reading from the Torah from the bimah, or pulpit.

On Monday, he admitted in court to stealing the money in Ponzi schemes, many involving members of the same synagogue.

David, 49, used his standing within the community to scam his victims by selling them fake investments while he was managing director at wealth management company HBFS Financial Services, The Jewish Chronicle reported Wednesday. He transferred the money into his own account and used it to fund his lavish lifestyle and gambling addiction.

“Mr. David should not have been called up,” the synagogue’s chairman, Simon Mitchell, wrote in a statement. “Although there was guidance in place by the honorary officers this perhaps should have been clearer. There was absolutely no malicious intent on the part of those involved and this call up does not reflect” the synagogue’s policy.

The synagogue’s rabbi, Chaim Kanterovitz, also sent a letter of regret to his “beloved community” in which he blamed the decision to call up David on “not know[ing] all the facts.”

Between January 2005 and November 2017, David spent more than $20 million on gambling websites. On one day alone, he lost $313,000 while gambling online.

A daughter of one of David’s elderly victims told The Jewish Chronicle that the synagogue’s letter “is a mockery, a disgrace. This ‘community’ needs to come together and help those who have been left crippled by David.”

David was sentenced to prison in Southwark Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud by abusing his position and transfer by deception.

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