The Spinka tax fraud case, which skimmed money off donations for the ultra-Orthodox sect’s charities and schools, was uncovered in December 2007. Yesterday, the operation’s No. 2, Rabbi Moshe Zigelman, was sentenced in Los Angeles district court to two years prison time:
Speaking through an interpreter, Zigelman reiterated his admission of guilt and his desire for leniency prior to sentencing by drawing a parallel to Kol Nidre and teshuvah (atonement). “I understand I have sinned against the American government. Therefore, I accept and acknowledge my behavior. I have to make amends for what I did,” he said.
Zigelman is the assistant to the Brooklyn-based Chasidic sect’s Rabbi Naftali Tzi Weisz; the pair were arrested Dec. 19, 2007, in Los Angeles on charges that they solicited millions of dollars in contributions for five Spinka charities with the understanding that the organizations would issue a receipt for the full amount and then secretly refund between 80 percent to 95 percent of the original contribution back to the donor.
According to the federal indictment, the scam started in 1996 and continued until 2007, laundering money back to donors through a network of Los Angeles businesses, including some in and around the downtown jewelry district, as well as through Tel Aviv-based United Mizrahi Bank and its Los Angeles branch.
Zigelman, whom many described in letters to the court as an experienced fundraiser focused on charitable giving, helped solicit more than $8 million in 2006, of which $750,000 was kept by Spinka charities.