(Left to right) Yocheved Nussbaum, Mordechai Sorotzkin, Rachel Sorotzkin and Shimon Nussbaum leave the federal courthouse in Trenton on Monday following their initial appearances on benefits fraud charges. (Cristina Rojas | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
Two couples hid more than $1.5 million each while collecting tens of thousands of dollars in Medicaid and other benefits as part of an elaborate scheme in Lakewood, according to criminal complaints filed against them by the FBI.
Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin were arrested by agents on Monday along with Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum on federal criminal complaints, since unsealed, that accuse them of stealing government funds from a variety of federal benefit programs, including Medicaid.
The Sorotzkins and Nussbaums were charged as a result of what investigators described as a wide-ranging probe of benefits fraud in the Ocean County community that also led county prosecutors to bring state charges against two other couples, including Rabbi Zalmen Sorotzkin — Mordechai's brother — and his wife Tzipporah.
Here's what court documents say they claimed they needed, but were actually making:
Yocheved (left) and Shimon Nussbaum leave the federal courthouse in Trenton on Monday following their initial appearance on benefits fraud charges. (Cristina Rojas | For NJ.com)
Nussbaums claimed family of 7 lived on $1.5K a month, feds say
On applications she made between 2011 and 2013 for benefits through NJ FamilyCare, Section 8 and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistant Program — better known as food stamps — Yocheved Nussbaum claimed her seven-person household's income was never any higher than $1,500 a month, according to a criminal complaint filed against her and her husband Shimon.
Investigators said the Nussbaums collected more than $178,000 in Medicaid, Section 8 and SNAP benefits from 2011 through August 2014.
Rabbi Benefits Fraud Charges
FBI agents take Shimon Nussbaum into custody at his home in Lakewood on Monday. (Peter Ackerman/The Asbury Park Press via AP)
Before they ever applied for benefits, investigators said, the Nussbaums had been in control of numerous businesses opened under the names of relatives, including a clothing company, a real estate business and a daycare company, as well two bank accounts in the name of an autism non-profit opened in 2011 and 2012. Investigators said they determined the family went on to make more than $265,000 in 2011, more than $198,535 in 2012 and $1.8 million in 2013, largely from those company's funds.
"Tellingly, during calendar year 2015, after Yocheved Nussbaum and Shimon Nussbaum had stopped applying for and receiving Medicaid, SNAP and Section 8 benefits, they received an additional $1,500,000 in checks from Daycare Company 1 made payable to Individual B (a relative)," an FBI agent wrote. "Rather than deposit this money into the Real Estate Company Account, as they had done in 2013, they deposited these funds directly into their personal bank account at FultonBank."
Mordechai and Rachel Sorotzkin first signed their family up for NJ FamilyCare benefits in 2011, when Rachel Sorotzkin told the state she was making $1,333 every two weeks, and her husband was receiving a $350 scholarship payment each month, money that went towards supporting four children, according to the complaint.
Her family went on to collect approximately $96,000 in benefits, the complaint said, including $22,000 in Medicaid payments for care associated with the birth of a child.