Former Director Charged With Stealing NIS 4M From Disabled Children's Center to Pay Off Debts

The former executive director of a Jerusalem center for blind children was charged yesterday with stealing more than NIS 4 million from the organization to cover gambling debts, trips abroad and other personal expenses.

Moshe Ripas, who served for 20 years as the executive director of Keren Or, a center for blind children with multiple disabilities, was indicted at the Jerusalem District Court yesterday on charges including fraud and breach of trust. He is accused of defrauding the center out of millions of shekels, much of it by writing fake checks and fudging financial records. Ripas left the organization in 2006.

Keren Or, which provides rehabilitative therapy and educational and recreational activities for blind children with physical or developmental disabilities, is largely supported by budgeting from the Social Affairs Ministry and donations from abroad.

The indictment says Ripas wrote false checks to organizations that ostensibly offered various services to Keren Or, while he actually deposited the money in his personal bank account. Ripas is suspected of having stolen NIS 1 million by this method alone.

Ripas is also alleged to have reported false expenses, then paid the money to various debtors - including those running gambling operations - or used it to travel abroad.

"Taking advantage of his position as director of the charity, the suspect presented false accounts of stolen money that was supposedly used to cover the group's operating expenses," said the indictment, filed by Rivka Alkoby, a criminal attorney with the Jerusalem district of the State Prosecutor's Office.