Cantor Sued For Scamming Charity
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Posted on: Jun 22 2016
By Kirsten Fleming | February 14, 2010 | New York Post
OY VEY: Benny Rogosnitzky, the cantor at the Park East Synagogue, allegedly stole money that was donated for the purchase of an ambulance in Israel. Photo: Christopher Sadowski
A prominent Manhattan cantor promised to buy an ambulance in Israel on behalf of his Holocaust-survivor mother-in-law — but instead funneled the cash back to his own coffers through a charity run by a disgraced rabbi tied to a massive New Jersey corruption scandal, according to a Manhattan federal lawsuit.
Benny Rogosnitzky, 36, the cantor at the ritzy Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side allegedly deposited a $132,500 check from his then mother-in-law with Brooklyn-based Magen Israel Society.
The charity is run by Rabbi Saul Kassin — the leader of the nation’s largest Syrian Sephardic Jewish Congregation — who was indicted in the massive money-laundering scheme that rocked political landscape of New Jersey last year.
Rogosnitzky’s ex-mother-in-law, Klara Ringel, an elderly Holocaust survivor and wealthy Democratic Party contributor from Lakewood, NJ, wanted the cash to go to the Israeli version of the Red Cross — the similarly named Magen David Adom — to buy an ambulance in the Ringel family name.
Instead, the cash went to the rabbi’s charity, which took a $10,000 cut, according to court papers. The group then gave the rest back to Rogosnitzky in a series of checks made out to his organization, Cantor’s World, and some of his relatives, the documents claim.
The charity allegedly cut checks in sums lower than $10,000 so the transactions would fly under the radar of authorities.
Rogosnitzky, who spent 14 years at the posh Upper West Side Jewish Center on 86th Street until June 2009, then cashed those checks with Reliable Check Cashing Service, the lawsuit claims.
Kassin’s charity was at the center of the rabbi’s indictment last summer for allegedly similarly skimming money raised for Israel and educational services.
Federal agents questioned several people who are close to Rogosnitzky in their probe of Kassin, but the cantor has not been charged with a crime, sources said.
“These accusations are baseless,” said Rogosnitzky’s spokesman Andre Moesel, who claimed that the allegations are the work of bitter in-laws looking to ruin him. “Smearing a good man with lies is no way to bring resolution to a matrimonial issue,” Moesel said.
Rogosnitzky and Ringel’s daughter, Chana, married in August 2002. The couple had two children.
But increasing suspicions over missing money fractured his marriage. Since October 2007, the couple has been locked in a fierce divorce battle.
Ringel’s lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, said the family went to court to retrieve the $132,500 last July after Kassin turned over copies of the checks Rogosnitzky deposited with his organization.
“We saw that the checks went directly to the cantor, and we figured out what happened,” Jaroslawicz said.
“Klara Ringel is a widow and over 80 years old, and this whole scenario, to find out her son-in-law has been stealing from her has been devastating,” said Jaroslawicz.
BY ALISON GENDAR | NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |Saturday, February 13, 2010
A cantor at a prestigious Manhattan temple stands accused of ungodly acts – scamming almost a half-Million bucks from a charity, a longtime supporter and his soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law.
A federal suit claims Benny Rogosnitzky, known at Park East Synagogue for his smooth charm and rich voice, tricked a marketing director for the National Council of Young Israel and an education group, Gateways, out of more than $300,000.
And Klara Ringel, whose daughter is embroiled in a bitter divorce with Rogosnitzky, says he hoodwinked her into giving $132,000 to a corrupt charity.
“Every week he stands in front of a congregation as a righteous man and prays for the congregation’s sins to be forgiven,” said lawyer David Jaroslawicz, who represents Ringel in the suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court. “What he really does is ‘prey’ – spelled with an ‘e’ not an ‘a.'”
Rogosnitzky, 36, claimed in court records that he’s the victim. He said his estranged wife, 37-year-old Chana Ringel, and her family trashed his reputation, forcing him to leave the Jewish Center on the upper West Side, where he’d worked for 13 years.
The cantor declined to comment for this story. Spokesman Andrew Moesel said that Ringel’s accusations are tied to the divorce. The couple has two children.
“These accusations are part of a smear campaign designed to apply pressure in a matrimonial dispute,” Moesel said. “Mr. Rogosnitzky fully intends to repay any business debts as soon as the divorce matter is resolved.”
As the federal case heads toward trial March 3, Ringel has lined up some allies – two non-profits that say Rogosnitzky duped them
“He’s a dangerous person,” Rabbi Mordechai Suchard, founder and president of Gateways, told the Daily News.
In a deposition, Suchard claimed that in 2008 Rogosnitzky asked to use a Gateways credit card to reserve space for a retreat sponsored by his own organization, Cantors World. When the American Express bills rolled in, there were charges for El Al tickets to Israel, kosher food and liquor to the tune of $150,547, he said in a deposition.
Rogosnitzky said he didn’t know anything about the charges. Then he called them a mistake. Three repayment checks bounced, the rabbi claimed.
The cantor even told American Express he was a Gateways employee entitled to use the card, court papers allege. Only $45,000 has been repaid – by one of Rogosnitzky’s congregants.
Tziporah Spear, marketing director for the National Council of Young Israel, had a similar run-in with the cantor, according to a deposition. Rogosnitzky asked her for a credit card in 2007 to hold a reservation for a Cantors World event, then ran up $150,000 in charges, including 17 plane tickets, court records show.
Rogosnitzky claimed the money was a loan, but his repayment checks bounced.
The Ringel family is trying to paint legitimate business disputes as crimes, Rogosnitzky’s spokesman said. Maryann Cignarelli, he said, was trying to recover cash Cantors World owed her company and got a call from a stranger in December.
“This person, who I didn’t know from a hole in the wall, called and said the Ringel family would pay off the debt we were owed if we testified against the cantor,” Cignarelli told The News. “The whole thing seemed shady, so we didn’t get involved.”
Ringel’s lawyer, David Jaroslawicz, said he didn’t know Cignarelli, but saw no problem with reimbursing a crime victim who is providing honest testimony.
“I see nothing wrong with making someone whole, so long as he or she testifies truthfully about what Benny did. The truth is the truth,” Jaroslawicz said.
Klara Ringel, in her 80s, says she fell victim to a different scam.
The Holocaust survivor wanted her son-in-law to buy an ambulance in Israel to honor the family name. Rogosnitzky had her make out a $132,500 check to the Magen Israel Society, the suit says. She assumed that was affiliated with Magen David Adom, which runs an emergency service in Israel.
In reality, the group that got her money was based in Brooklyn and run by Rabbi Saul Kassin – who was arrested last year on charges he used the charity to launder money for corrupt politicians.
The suit says that after Ringel sent the check, Kassin’s group wrote checks to Rogosnitzky, Cantors World and relatives.
In court papers, Rogosnitzky insisted his mother-in-law knew the check was going to Kassin and was trying to launder money herself. She denied it.
Rogosnitzky quit as senior cantor at the Jewish Center last year and has been at Park East ever since. Both synagogues declined comment.
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