Ex-treasurer admits stealing more than $600G from synagogue
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The now-ousted treasurer of a Five Towns synagogue pleaded guilty Friday to swindling more than $600,000 from his congregation, prosecutors said.
Isaac Zucker, 49, admitted that he wired money from the accounts of the congregation, Aish Kodesh of Woodmere, into his own, according to prosecutors.
At sentencing, on April 9, Zucker -- an attorney by trade from Woodmere -- faces up to 7 years in prison. It was not clear whether the plea, before Judge David J. Ayres to an indictment of second-degree grand larceny, was the result of a deal calling for less time. Zucker is free on $150,000 bail until sentencing.
His defense attorney, Joseph Grob of Manhattan, didn't return a call seeking comment.
Aish Kodesh's president, Elliot Blumenthal, declined to disclose the new fiscal controls he said are now in place to protect the coffers of the congregation, an Orthodox shul of more than 250 families.
"It's a very sad chapter in the synagogue's history, and one that we'd love to put behind us," Blumenthal said. "We hope that, at some point, we will be able to be repaid for the hard-earned charity money of our members that was taken."
The thefts took place between 2006 and 2011, when Zucker was treasurer, a volunteer position. Zucker's arrest, on June 29, 2011, at a hotel near Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma came days after his wife reported him missing and two weeks after synagogue leaders confronted him about $634,960 in missing funds.
The scheme unraveled because checks meant to pay the congregation's bills began bouncing. Zucker doctored bank statements to make it appear that one of its accounts had $200,000 when the balance was actually $50, prosecutors said. Zucker promised the shul he'd replace the funds, and only when he hadn't did leaders call the authorities, a synagogue official told Newsday upon Zucker's arrest.
Azriel Ganz, then synagogue board chairman, said that Aish Kodesh would be working with its insurer to see how much, if anything, the synagogue could recover. The outcome of that process wasn't clear Friday.
In a statement, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice said: "Houses of worship act as beacons of education, guidance, friendship, and trust and for this defendant to violate that sanctity in order to fill his own pockets is unconscionable."