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April 28, 2012

Canadian Among Accused in Holocaust Survivor Fund Fraud

 Canadian among accused in Holocaust survivor fund fraud
Adrian Humphreys
Apr 26, 201

A trial date in New York City was set this week for 20 people accused of bilking the international Holocaust survivors’ fund, but the question remains whether a Toronto woman, also facing charges in a $57-million fraud uncovered by the FBI, will be among them.
Luba Kramrish, 56, who came to Canada from Russia and lives in Toronto, is among 30 people accused of swindling money provided by the German government intended for Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution during the Second World War.
Living in Canada, however, Ms. Kramrish was not arrested.
Indignation expressed by U.S. authorities over the decade-long conspiracy suggests she will not be soon forgotten.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara promised, when announcing the case in October, he “would not stop until we brought to justice those who are alleged to have stolen more than $57-million.
“If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference, which every day assists thousands of poor and elderly survivors of the Nazi genocide,” he said.
The Claims Conference, properly called the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, administers several funds that provide reparation to victims of the Holocaust.
Ms. Kramrish became known in the Russian-speaking community as someone who could help get money for being a victim of the Holocaust — even if you weren’t really from Nazi-occupied Europe, U.S. authorities allege.
Prosecutors claim she worked with a corrupt caseworker in the Claims Conference’s New York office to approve ineligible claims using phoney documents and lies.
The background stories told of hard struggles in Jewish ghettoes, of refugees fleeing Nazi troops and of desperate survival in death camps. A subsequent investigation, however, proved many of the claims to be false, authorities say.
“These defendants had a hand in fabricating, filing or processing nearly 5,000 fraudulent claims on behalf of non-qualifying applicants,” said Janice Fedarcyk, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge.
According to documents filed in a U.S. court, Ms. Kramrish called a friend of hers in New York who was a caseworker at the Claims Conference in about 1999.
Ms. Kramrish inquired about her mother, who had applied for money from one of the funds and was still awaiting resolution, authorities say.
‘If ever there was a cause that you would hope and expect would be immune from base greed and criminal fraud, it would be the Claims Conference’
The friend spoke with a colleague about Ms. Kramrish’s mother’s case and found the persecution history she provided could not be verified. The friend took the case and then falsified information to get it approved, the prosecutors said.
That caseworker has since pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and is now co-operating with U.S. authorities in the hope of receiving leniency. The witness is expected to testify at trial.
After Ms. Kramrish’s mother’s claim was granted, the Toronto woman began sending the caseworker documents for about 20 to 25 other applications, U.S. authorities say.
“[The witness] helped falsify these applications so that they would be approved,” court documents say. “In exchange, Kramrish paid [the witness] between $2,000 to $4,000 per application.”
Some of the money was paid to the witness while in Toronto and some while Ms. Kramrish was in New York, authorities say.

 Abridged
SOURCE:       The National Post

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