Poway Rabbi Gets Incarceration Despite Cooperation

Poway Rabbi Gets Incarceration Despite Cooperation

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In April of 2019 Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein’s finger was shot off by a 22 year old self proclaimed White supremacist John Ernest who had set fire to a mosque a month prior. Goldstein and a soldier from Israel, ie., Almog Peretz, saved a room full of children. Almog and Almog’s niece were both shot, but survived. A few days after the shooting Rabbi Goldstein met with Donald Trump in the White House, where Goldstein led a national prayer service. Goldstein and the Donald prayed together.

A month after the shooting Almog Peretz sued Goldstein’s synagogue for failing to provide adequate security. Peretz alleged that Goldstein got $150K in a Federal grant that wasn’t used to beef up security. Others sued the synagogue for lack of security. Those cases are still pending. On November 15, 2019 Goldstein’s co-conspirator 44 year old Alexander Avergoon, was busted in Latvia and extradited by the Feds where he was accused of running a massive $12 million fraudulent real estate scheme in California. Goldstein was busted along with 63 year old Bijan Moossazadeh, 74 year old Yousef Shemirani, 83 year old Boris Shkoller, and 74 year old Dr. Bruce Baker.

Goldstein admitted in his guilty plea agreement that he “engaged in a series of tax and fraud schemes over a period of many years, a 90/10 tax fraud scheme with at least 18 different donors. Donors gave Rabbi Goldstein a sum of money, purportedly as a donation to the Chabad or another entity controlled by Goldstein, such as the Friendship Circle. Rabbi Goldstein would then secretly funnel back approximately 90% of those funds, provide the donor with a fraudulent donation receipt to enable the donor to falsely take the full deduction on their taxes, and keep the rest for himself. In at least one instance, Rabbi Goldstein funneled the funds back by providing a donor with approximately $1 million in gold. Goldstein also engaged in a corporate matching wire fraud / tax fraud scheme involving at least three Fortune 500 companies with corporate matching programs. Goldstein would solicit donors to make a contribution to a purportedly non-sectarian organization controlled by Goldstein. Goldstein would return the full amount of the original donation to the donor, usually in cash. The donor would submit the purported donation to their employer, thereby inducing the company to match the ‘donation.’ Goldstein would then create fraudulent donation receipts for these donors, many of whom took the deduction for the fraudulent donation on their taxes. Rabbi Goldstein additionally assisted his brother Mendel Goldstein (charged elsewhere) and Bruce Baker (charged elsewhere) in hiding income from the IRS in the amount of $1.8 million. Goldstein fraudulently obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief funds and grants in conjunction with Alexander Avergoon (charged elsewhere). Using false or inflated claims, Goldstein and Avergoon obtained over $937,000 in grant funds, of which they misappropriated $860,537. Goldstein additionally obtained fraudulent documentation from Avergoon to allow him to apply for and obtain mortgages and a construction loan.”

The Justice Department recommended 8 months home confinement and told Judge Cynthia Bashant: “the United States believes that a substantial departure is appropriate to account for the extraordinary circumstances of the Chabad of Poway shooting and its aftermath.” Rabbi Goldstein’s lawyer argued for no incarceration and no home confinement: “Mr. Goldstein has accepted responsibility, and has publicly disclosed his cooperation with authorities, a somewhat unusual step. Rabbi Goldstein has attempted to do whatever he can to right his wrongs. He began cooperating shortly after agents executed search warrants in October of 2018, even working undercover for the government. His cooperation has contributed to at least ten successful prosecutions. He has also secured approximately $1 million in gold from his co-conspirators on behalf of the government.”

Rabbi Goldstein told Judge Bashant: “I have fallen prey and worshiped the Golden Calf of money. I have let myself down and everything that I have taught, and everything that I have preached for 40 years, and allowed myself to be seduced to a very dark place, allowing the power of money to get the better part of my soul. At the time of the crimes I’ve committed I knew it was wrong and against everything I stood for, and I’ve let myself and so many others down by deceiving my own soul.”

Judge Bashant sentenced Goldstein to 14 months of incarceration, with $2.8 million in restitution, despite the fact that the Government did not recommend incarceration and despite the fact that Goldstein went undercover for the FBI and helped the Government indict others in his case, such as one of his congregants / donors whom the Government seized a million dollars in gold. Goldstein’s sentence of incarceration may have been the result of the contents of a letter sent to Judge Bashant just before sentencing, by a former friend and congregant of Rabbi Goldstein:

“My family and I were members of the Chabad of Poway for 30 years. My children grew up in the synagogue and played with Rabbi’s children; I considered his wife and daughters-in-law my friends. My family was in the synagogue on April 27, 2019. My good friend, Lori Gilbert Kaye, was murdered that day. After the Pittsburgh shooting, (In 2018 an assailant armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and multiple handguns entered the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh and killed 11 people), my husband and I asked Rabbi Goldstein numerous times to keep the door closed and to hire a guard. Each time he was asked to do both of these items, he replied that this will never happen in Poway and that the synagogue has no money. On the morning of April 27, 2019, when my family left for the synagogue, I asked my husband to please keep the door to the synagogue closed. After several times of multiple congregants closing the door and fighting with Rabbi Goldstein to close the door so that everyone inside would be safe, the congregants lost and the gunman was given an open door to intrude into our holy place.

After the shooting Rabbi Goldstein was not there for those of us that were dealing with post-traumatic stress. He had his own PTSD. I am not sure how he found the strength to travel all over the world making paid speeches or where that funding went. I do not think all money made by the Rabbi during these speeches should go to the synagogue but I do think a percentage would have been nice to show he at least cared about his flock. One such speech, was given at a program for Shavuot, a Jewish Holiday. In the speech, he proceeded to retell his story. The funny thing is that his speech was half-truths. Both my daughter and Lori’s daughter were so upset by the inaccuracy of the speech that they both walked out. After this event, I heard from other congregants that money Rabbi Goldstein received from the Government to secure the synagogue was used on Rabbi’s personal home. I made several calls in an effort to find the truth. I could not believe this was true! How could the spiritual leader we trusted do such a thing? I must have upset Rabbi Goldstein because he and his wife called my husband and I up to their mansion on the hill. They proceeded to sternly reprimand my husband and I for investigating the use of government funds. I could tell they both were very upset and my husband and I decided that we had to live in the Poway Community and that we should back down. So, we did. At some point, after we were called up to the house, I received a call from Randy Grossman, Lori Kaye’s sister. She asked if the rumor was true about the misuse of security funds by the Rabbi. I told her I tried to investigate but I was met with complete opposition and virtually no transparency…

There were many times through the years where events would occur that made the congregants question the Rabbi’s intentions. Four such events are stuck in my mind. The first was when Rabbi Goldstein over charged my husband for burial plots after the death of his first wife. He charged my husband for two plots but gave him one and doubled the price for a head stone. We made excuses but later felt that taking advantage of a grieving widower was a bit too much…

Then there were the solar panels. On several occasions, Rabbi asked the Congregation to fund solar panels for the synagogue. Several congregants donated to the solar panel project. However, the only solar panels I ever saw were the ones on his home. It was a joke after a while because he would turn off the A/C in the synagogue during Saturday services, but the A/C was on at his home…

On several occasions, congregants who passed away left their property to the Chabad of Poway. The property left to the Chabad of Poway, would miraculously disappear and with it went all the proceeds. It would be one thing if there was a clear trail showing the money in the synagogue’s coffers. Running a synagogue of our size is quite expensive, but the money would POOF disappear and then you would see Rabbi going overseas or on a Kosher cruise. The Rabbi did work hard and he was entitled to a vacation; however, there was no transparency which made many questions about how he had the money for these types of vacations…

The first year after the indictment, we decided we would give Rabbi Goldstein’s son Mendel a chance. We decided that if the government felt that the 501C3 was still valid and was being used properly that we would trust Mendel Goldstein. We went to the synagogue and we supported Rabbi Mendel. But slowly, we noticed that Rabbi Mendel was stating that he could not do anything without speaking to his father. This sent up red flags for us. One such occasion had to do with a donation of $25,000 made by a congregant’s family in honor of her father. She donated the funds to dedicate a classroom to her father. She wanted Rabbi Mendel to place a plaque on the classroom honoring her father. When I heard about this situation, I spoke to Rabbi Mendel and the board about the request. Rabbi Mendel told the congregant that he was not at liberty to help her without his father’s permission. Wow!! This statement sent red flags to us and we then started questioning everything at the synagogue. The new board in the end quit. Some of them said their time was up while one board member admitted privately that they tried to get Mendel Goldstein to do the right thing for the community but he would agree and then do the opposite of what the board recommended. One board member stated he felt that Rabbi Goldstein was still involved but had no proof. This board member’s letter of resignation stating the reasons why he resigned, has never been released to the congregation. The letter has mysteriously vanished, Poof. The board that took over for these volunteers is now made of the Goldstein family members and Mendel Goldstein’s father-in-law, Rabbi Greenberg of El Paso, Texas.

In addition, the families of the co-conspirators that were involved in Rabbi Goldstein’s scheme to make erroneous contributions to evade taxes have been destroyed. Dr. Baker is dying of leukemia in a federal prison, his family moved out of San Diego. Another family left the country. Many individuals have stopped coming to the synagogue because they are embarrassed that they believed their religious leader. The final straw is the division in the Jewish community of Poway, Rabbi Goldstein claims that he was there to support the community and that his family is still doing so, this causes me great discomfort. This is one of his premises for the plea deal. However, the reality is very different. If you ask the District Attorney for San Diego County, they will tell you that not one Goldstein came to court to support the congregation during the process. Not one Goldstein showed up at the hearing or sentencing of John Earnst, ie., the shooter…”

The entire letter against Goldstein is posted below. The letter is not signed. I don’t know who wrote the letter.

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