Semen Domnitser, the former Claims Conference employee who was charged with leading a $57 million fraud scheme at the Holocaust restitution organization was found guilty on all counts by a U.S. District Court jury in Manhattan.
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The Wednesday verdict ended a four week trial in which two others, Oksana Romalis and Luba Kramrish, were also found guilty. Twenty-eight people charged in the fraud scheme had pleaded guilty earlier.
“To have it all come to closure is extraordinarily important,” Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told JTA. “We’re obviously very happy that justice has been served, but focus on the needs of Holocaust survivors has always been our main priority.”
The fraud was discovered in 2009 and dated back to 1993. It involved falsifying applications to the Hardship Fund, an account established by the German government to provide one-time payments of approximately $3,360 to those who fled the Nazis as they moved east through Germany, and the Article 2 Fund, through which the German government gives pension payments of approximately $411 per month to needy Nazi victims who spent significant time in a concentration camp, in a Jewish ghetto in hiding or living under a false identity to avoid the Nazis.
Jury deliberations Wednesday took just a few hours. Domnitser could be jailed for up to 20 years.
“With the verdicts against these three defendants, all 31 people who played roles in the theft of $57 million intended to benefit victims of the Nazi genocide – one of the darkest chapters in all human history – have been convicted,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “We said we would not stop until we brought to justice those who committed these unthinkable crimes and today our objective was accomplished.”