Senior Employee at U.S. Jewish Newspaper Arrested for Embezzling More Than $1m

Cheryl Lutts had worked for Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent as director of business for 18 years. The newspaper discovered the fraud only after she was fired for unsatisfactory performance

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File photo: A patrol car in Washington.
File photo: A patrol car in Washington.Credit: Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP

A Philadelphia woman was arrested and charged with wire and mail fraud after stealing more than $1 million from the Jewish newspaper at which she worked, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has announced.

Cheryl Lutts, 42, who was arrested on May 21 following a multi-year FBI investigation, had worked for the Jewish Exponent as director of business for 18 years, the paper reported on Thursday. The newspaper discovered the fraud after she was terminated for unsatisfactory performance in August 2019.

In total, Mrs. Lutts is said to have stolen $1,443,375.57, $1.19 million from the newspaper and the rest from the Philly POPS orchestra, where she worked after leaving the Exponent.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Lutts used the money to “pay her personal credit card bills, and for a wide variety of personal expenses charged to company credit or debit cards.” 

Prosecutors said she “allegedly went to great lengths to disguise her fraudulent activities,” including by submitting false, misleading and incomplete financial statements.

“This defendant allegedly swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from not one, but two former employers” Acting U.S. Attorney Williams said in a statement. 

“Non-profit organizations exist for the people and constituencies they serve, not as personal piggy banks for those entrusted with managing their funds. Our office will continue to aggressively pursue and prosecute those who steal from non-profits.”

If convicted, she could face up to 480 years in prison.

“We not only got the majority of the money back [through insurance], we chased the person down,” Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia COO Steven Rosenberg told the Exponent. 

“The paper is stable now, which is a win considering the print-journalism market. We still know the Jewish Exponent is the prominent voice of the Jewish community in Philadelphia.”

Lutts’ arrest occurred less than a week before the editor of another Jewish paper was fired for alleged criminal activity.

Elliot Resnick, the top editor at the New York-based Jewish Press, was replaced by staff editor Shlomo Greenwald last Wednesday, less than two months after the Politico news site published a video showing him taking part in the storming of the US Capital building on January 6.

In the video, Resnick could be seen tumbling as he enters the Capitol building through a doorway while a Capitol police officer tries to keep out intruders. Resnick reappears a few minutes later, his face clearly visible, standing nearby as another rioter shouts at a Capitol police officer.

Resnick was not arrested for his participation in the insurrection.

Resnick, who became the paper’s top editor in 2018, subsequently wrote an opinion piece defending the insurrection, asserting without proof that the “storming of the Capitol came in reaction to a stolen election.”

“Democrats keep on declaring that never again can this country see its Capitol overtaken by a mob. Well, there's an easy solution for that,” he wrote. “Don't steal elections in plain sight, and maybe ordinarily law-abiding citizens won't snap.”

Responding to the article in Politico, the Jewish Press editorial board initially defended Resnick, writing in a statement that he had been in Washington “covering the rally and the rest of the day’s terrible events for The Jewish Press, where he has been a reporter and editor since 2006.”

Explaining why no coverage bearing Resnick’s byline had been published, which would have established that he was present as a reporter and not a participant, the editorial board said that it had “decided not to print any article – by Elliot or anyone else – in our print edition because of the heated atmosphere surrounding the day’s events, especially within New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.”

As editor, Resnick proved to be an abrasive and controversial leader, drawing reprimands from the Anti-Defamation League for anti-LGBT rhetoric, as well as for running articles praising Rabbi Meir Kahane, a former editor of the paper who was banned from serving in the Knesset for racism and whose Kach party was designated a terror organization by the United States.

In one article, Resnick declared that “in a Jewish state, only Jews should vote,” quoting the rabbi to buttress his point. In another, he described his own experience of “near trance” while reading one of Kahane’s books in high school.

He has also courted controversy with his online behavior, tweeting hot-takes criticized as racist and bigoted.

In one tweet, Resnick appeared to justify slavery, writing: “How about this exchange? Whites give blacks money, and blacks publicly thank whites for giving them Christianity to replace the primitive African religions they were practicing when they got here.”

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