How Benefits Fraud Scam Spread So Widely In Orthodox Town

Similar scams are going on in many Orthodox communities. There’s no connection, in my experience, between Jewish observance and honesty.

In much of the world, the word “Jew” is synonymous with dishonesty in business.

Judaism is a system of dual morality — there is one morality for how you treat your in-group and a more relaxed morality for how you treat outsiders. Most people in the world observe dual morality. WASPs are the main exception.

Social identity theory teaches us that as you develop your in-group identity, the more likely you are to develop negative feelings about outsiders. It’s easy to see how a strong in-group identity leads to abuse against outsiders if the in-group thinks it can get away with it. Orthodox Jews tend to have a stronger in-group identity than Conservative Jews who in turn tend to have a stronger in-group identity than Reform and secular Jews. The most assimilated Jews are the most likely to go to college, mow their lawns and fit in with the goyim.


The numbers in the public benefits fraud scam in the Orthodox enclave of Lakewood, New Jersey, are stunning.

Fourteen arrests so far, and counting. More than $2 million in fraudulently obtained government funds. Hundreds of others scrambling to avoid prosecution for similar crimes.

Law enforcement sources say that the schemes are both “widespread” and some of the “most sophisticated financial fraud” cases authorities have seen in recent years, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Officials say all the alleged fraudsters are also suspected of using a local business to transfer money. The owner of that store recently pleaded guilty to transmitting cash without a license.

So how was the scheme so successful for so long, and how did it involve so many people in such a relatively small town?

The Asbury Park Press investigation, based on publicly available information on four of the 14 suspects, revealed a web of “hidden income, fake applications and phony company owners” that were the central cogs in the fraud…

Since news of the arrests spread, there have been ominous signs that even more people could be involved. Hundreds of people have called local officials, inquiring if there would be amnesty for those who admit lying about their incomes, and the APP reported that Ocean County authorities have been swamped with calls from public assistance beneficiaries seeking to stop receiving benefits.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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