Lakewood Couples Defraud Over $1 Million From Welfare Programs

Several Lakewood couples were charged with defrauding thousands of dollars from Medicaid and other government assistance programs. (Photo courtesy Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office)

LAKEWOOD – In an ongoing investigation, six Lakewood individuals – three married couples – were arrested after it was discovered they allegedly defrauded nearly $700,000 from Medicaid and government assistant programs by misrepresenting their incomes and receiving benefits that they and their families were not entitled to.

As of press time, seven couples have been arrested in the investigation for collecting roughly $2 million in fraudulent benefits.

The charges began with the arrest of two other married couples from Lakewood, who were arrested a day earlier for the same crime. All couples faced a Detention Hearing on June 28 in Ocean County Superior Court. According to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, they have since been released and the case will now move through the courts.

Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato said in a press release, “Financial assistance programs are designed to alleviate family hardships for those truly in need. My office gave clear guidance and notice to the Lakewood community in 2015 of what is considered financial abuse of these programs. Those who choose to ignore those warnings by seeking to illegally profit on the backs of taxpayers will pay the punitive price of their actions.”

The three couples who were arrested just prior to midnight on June 27 were:

  • Yitzchock and Sora Kanarek of Brisk Lane were charged with 2nd Degree Theft by Deception for wrongfully collecting approximately $339,002.56 in Medicaid, SNAP, HUD and SSI benefits between January 2009 and July 2014.
  • Chaim and Liatt Ehrman of Twin Oaks Drive were charged with 2nd Degree Theft by Deception for wrongfully collecting approximately $185,692.22 in Medicaid, SNAP, HEAP and Sandy benefits between January 2011 and December 2015
  • William and Faigy Friedman of Leigh Drive were charged with 2nd Degree Theft by Deception for wrongfully collecting approximately $149,842.28 in Medicaid, SNAP, HEAP and HUD benefits between January 2011 and December 2015.

The initial arrests of two couples announced on June 26 were:

  • Mordechai and Jocheved Breskin of Blue Jay Way were arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Theft by Deception for wrongfully collecting approximately $585,662 in Medicaid, SNAP, HUD and SSI benefits between January 2009 and December 2014.
  • Zalmen and Tzipporah Sorotzkin of Olive Court were arrested and charged with collecting approximately $338,642 in Medicaid, SNAP, HUD and SSI benefits between January 2009 and April 2014.

It is alleged that the charged individuals misrepresented their incomes by claiming amounts that were low enough to benefit from the government programs, when their actual incomes were too high for them to quality. They also failed to disclose on the applications additional income they were receiving from other sources.

While the five couples are being charged by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at the state level, four additional individuals were arrested by the FBI as part of an in depth review of government financial assistance programs: Rachel and Mordechai Sorotzkin, and Yocheved and Shimon Nussbaum of Lakewood, were each charged in separate complaints with one count of conspiring to steal government funds.

Over the course of three years, the Sorotzkins allegedly applied for and received Medicaid benefits for themselves and their children, while receiving a lump sum of $1 million from Rachel’s business in 2013, and also earning over $1 million in both 2012 and 2013, which they did not report to Medicaid officials. They continued to use Medicaid cards and ultimately defrauded the system of approximately $96,000 in taxpayer-funded medical assistance.

The Nussbaum family applied for and received government health benefits during the same time period as the Sorotzkins – 2011 to 2014 – creating various companies that were said to be run by relatives, but were actually managed by the Nussbaums themselves so they could use funds from company bank accounts to cover personal expenses, according to police. The income from these various businesses – which was as high as $1.8 million in 2013 – was underreported in applications for Medicaid, Section 8 housing and SNAP food benefits, and the family received taxpayer-funded health, housing and food benefits amounting to $178,000.

The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office (Photo by Micromedia Publications)

The two couples appeared before a judge in federal court in Trenton on June 27. Their conspiracy charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or two times the gross gain or loss from the offense.

“This operation highlights the success of federal, state and county cooperation in New Jersey’s effort to combat Medicaid and other government benefits fraud,” State Comptroller Degnan said in a press release. “My office will continue to ensure that only individuals and families truly in need of benefits receive them, and that those who choose to steal from New Jersey taxpayers are referred for prosecution.”

Additional arrests and charges may result as the case moves through the legal process. If anyone has information about these incidents, they should contact Sergeant Mark Malinowski of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027.

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Sara Grillo served as the Assistant News Editor/Writer at Micromedia Publications in 2017. She has lived in numerous areas within Monmouth and Ocean Counties for the past 9 years. Grillo studied Journalism and Communication Arts at Ramapo College and has held positions in Marketing, Public Relations and Sales prior to writing for Micromedia. She left in October of 2017 to pursue creative writing.