Former Israel chief rabbi to be indicted on fraud charges in US

An Israeli rabbi has been indicted on charges that he embezzled millions of dollars and lied to the Internal Revenue Service about expenses incurred for his religious practice.

Bibi Ofer, 62, was arrested Wednesday at his home in Brooklyn, New York, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government and conspiracy to violate the Internal Health Code, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office in New York.

He was being held without bail.

The indictment alleges that Ofer was a member of a group of Orthodox rabbis that allegedly engaged in fraud and misappropriation of government funds in the 1980s.

The group was accused of billing the government more than $10 million for services including plumbing, heating, electricity and telecommunication.

The statement from US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office says Ofer “filed false tax returns, failed to report income, and lied about expenses, including for his lavish religious home in the New York borough of Brooklyn.”

Ofer, who is the rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation in New Rochelle, was indicted in March 2016.

The investigation was prompted by complaints that Oftereb had been receiving improper government grants for the use of his synagogue and that he and his wife, Zvi, were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the cost of living in the borough, the statement said.

OftereBharara’s statement said that the FBI and US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York David Anderson have joined forces in an ongoing criminal investigation.

The charges relate to a fraudulent scheme in which Oftreb billed the IRS for the expenses of his congregation.

Ofer’s wife, who he married in 1982, is a member at the time of the alleged fraud, the indictment said.

The Israeli attorney general’s office declined to comment on the indictments.

Offereb is being held on a $10.2 million bond.