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Met Council’s William Rapfogel sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison

JTA

July 23, 2014 | 10:00 am

<em>William Rapfogel, left, then the head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attending the social service agency’s annual legislative breakfast, June 2008. (Metropolitan Council)</em>

William Rapfogel, left, then the head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attending the social service agency’s annual legislative breakfast, June 2008. (Metropolitan Council)

William Rapfogel, the former chief of New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, was sentenced to 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison for his role in a kickback scheme.

Rapfogel, the longtime executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, also was ordered to pay $3 million in restitution, according to a news release issued Wednesday by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Rapfogel, 59, pleaded guilty in April to stealing $9 million from the taxpayer-funded Met Council in a grand larceny and kickback scheme spanning two decades. His co-defendants — David Cohen, Herb Friedman and Joseph Ross — also have pleaded guilty.

Rapfogel personally stole $3 million, using the money to “fund a lavish lifestyle,” according to Schneiderman.

“This sentence sends the message that there has to be one set of rules for everyone, no matter how rich or powerful, and that those who rip off the neediest New Yorkers will be prosecuted,” Schneiderman said in the news release.

Also in the statement, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli called the fraud “shocking and very damaging to an organization that has literally helped countless people.”

“Those involved in this scam have been held accountable for their wrongdoing and this should serve as an example of what happens when individuals lose their way and become more focused on filling their own pockets than doing good works,” DiNapoli said.

The Met Council, which provides services to the poor and elderly in the New York City area, receives funding from state and city government, as well as from private sources.

The conspiracy began in 1992 when Ross, of the Century Coverage Corp., and Cohen had Century Coverage submit inflated invoices for insurance coverage to the Met Council. The nonprofit knowingly paid the inflated premiums, and Ross gave cash kickbacks to Cohen and Friedman, the Met Council’s chief financial officer.

Rapfogel, who took over as executive director in 1993, joined the scheme soon after and began receiving his own kickbacks. Rapfogel was receiving the largest share of the kickbacks — approximately $30,000 per month at one point — according to Schneiderman.

Last August, investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office found more than $400,000 in cash hidden in Rapfogel’s various homes. Rapfogel, widely considered a power broker in New York political circles, was earning a salary of more than $400,000 at the time and receiving subsidies for day school tuition.

As part of the scheme, Rapfogel and Cohen also directed Ross to make political donations to political candidates seen as potentially helpful to the Met Council using money obtained from the inflated insurance payments.

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