The Jewish Week: The FBI raided charedi Orthodox yeshivas and technology vendors that serve them in Brooklyn and in New York’s Rockland County, but declined to state publicly the details of the investigations.
In a large operation Wednesday afternoon, dozens of FBI agents, search warrants in hand, entered multiple yeshivas and vendors’ offices in Rockland County, demanding they account for technology purchases for which they billed the federal government, according to The Journal News. Agents were seen walking out with boxes of documents and computer hard drives.
The FBI confirmed to JTA that it also searched a handful of yeshivas in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn Wednesday afternoon. Those included two locations of Bais Ruchel d’Satmar, a girls school affiliated with the Satmar chasidic sect and possibly one location that was not a school.
The raids in Rockland are believed to be part of a larger investigation of fraud in the federal government’s E-rate program, which funds the purchase of technology equipment and Internet service by schools and libraries. A 2013 investigative report in the New York Jewish Week (co-written by this reporter) found that charedi Orthodox yeshivas, particularly chasidic ones, in Rockland County and Brooklyn disproportionately benefit from the program even though few offer their students or teachers Internet access.
A spokeswoman at the FBI’s New York office told JTA that the Brooklyn action were “searches” and “not raids,” and that they were part of an “ongoing investigation.” She would not confirm whether the investigation was related to the E-rate program, and said the Rockland and Brooklyn searches were not related, but were two separate investigations.
Bais Ruchel d’Satmar featured prominently in The Jewish Week’s 2013 articles, which noted that the school had been cited for noncompliance, yet continued to be approved for millions of dollars of services through E-rate. In 2011, it was approved for more E-rate funds than any other Jewish school in New York State, and in 2013 it applied for, but never received, $1.2 million for “internal connections” and “internal connections maintenance” provided by a nearby company called Computer Corner.