A New Jersey Rabbi has been indicted on theft charges.
Osher Eisemann, 60, stole more than $630,000 from the school that he founded, and then used that money to fund a now-bankrupt clothing company, according to Fox News. The charges are being brought by the New Jersey Attorney General and names the school's fundraising foundation, but not the school.
Eisemann is the founder of the School for Children with Hidden Intelligence (SCHI), a New Jersey school that specializes in teaching students with special needs. SCHI (pronounced shy) is the recipient of about $1.8 million each month from the Lakewood School District and surrounding school districts that send students to be educated at SCHI.
The exact charges being brought against Eisemann are: theft by unlawful taking; misapplication of government property; misconduct by a corporate official; and money laundering. All of these charges are second-degree offenses, and each carries up to 10 years in prison and up to $150,000 in fines.
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New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said that during the investigation, authorities found that the school was providing money to the fundraising foundation, and that Eisemann had used the foundation's bank accounts as a personal fund for investments without connection to SCHI.
Porrino alleges that while none of the $630,000 in embezzled money came from taxpayers or school districts, the bulk of the money came from tuition to the school itself. According to Porrino, under state regulations, tuition money is to "be used strictly for operating expenses of [the] school."
Eisemann allegedly used the fundraising foundation to take $430,000 from the school to invest in a business associate's bankrupt clothing company. Contracts between Eisemann and the clothing company were for a maximum of $550,000.
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The grand jury reported that Eisemann and his associate's money-laundering scheme took place between 2011 and 2015.
Eisemann's lawyer, Lee Vartan, denied all the charges and made the following statement: "Rabbi Eisemann has never taken any SCHI funds for his personal use, and we strongly deny that there was any ill intent in the use of SCHI funds. We look forward to the complete exoneration of both SCHI and Rabbi Eisemann in this investigation."
SCHI has been the subject of investigations for more than a decade by New Jersey news outlet Asbury Park Press after allegations that Lakewood public schools actively engaged in practices that kept minority children with special needs from receiving those education services and prevented them from enrolling at the school.
Lakewood, New Jersey, is home to nearly 100,000 residents and a very large Orthodox Jewish population who, according to Asbury Park Press, "send an estimated 30,000 children to private religious schools."
Sources: Asbury Park Press, Fox News / Photo credit: Pixabay, Office of the New Jersey Attorney General via Asbury Park Press