A former San Diego rabbi who was wounded in an April 2019 hate-filled attack on his Poway synagogue was sentenced Tuesday for his role in several fraud schemes, including one using charitable donations to commit tax fraud.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was sentenced to 14 months in custody and must pay nearly $3 million in restitution for the schemes involving the misuse of at least $6.2 million in contributions and donations to the synagogue. Of those millions, Goldstein admitted to keeping approximately $620,000 for himself.
He must surrender to authorities by Feb. 23.
"I stand here today, my head bowed in shame, remorse and disappointment over the crimes that I have committed to God and mankind,'" Goldstein said while addressing the court Tuesday.
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Goldstein was set to be sentenced on Oct. 29, 2020 after pleading guilty, but the sentencing was delayed due to the pandemic. At the time of Goldstein's guilty plea, the U.S. Attorney's Office recommended probation based on his cooperation and his “lifetime of service” to the community via the Chabad of Poway.
U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant said custody was warranted. The judge said many of Goldstein's co-defendants thought their offenses would ultimately benefit the Chabad, but said, "Really, it was just to benefit you. It was for your personal benefit and your own greed and I can't ignore that fact."
Bashant added, "I just don't think that a home confinement adequately reflects what you did in this case. I think it's important to send a message to the community and to send a message to you."
According to U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer, the investigation into Goldstein’s alleged tax fraud began as early as November 2016 and the IRS and FBI executed search warrants at Goldstein’s home and the synagogue on Oct. 17, 2018 – six months before the synagogue attack.
The rabbi knew he was under federal investigation long before the Chabad of Poway shooting and, according to Brewer, had been preparing to plead guilty to the tax and wire fraud since late 2018.
The complaint said Goldstein worked with at least 18 or more taxpayers throughout the years to help them in lowering their tax liabilities through fraudulent "donations" to the Chabad. The donations resulted in tax losses to the IRS of at least $1.5 million, the document said.
The complaint alleged that Goldstein, on behalf of the Chabad, gave donors receipt letters – usually signed by Goldstein on the Chabad's letterhead – documenting a donor’s "generous" contribution and marking it “tax-deductible.”
Those fake receipts were then used by “donors” to claim huge tax deductions on their tax returns.
Brewer said Goldstein would secretly funnel back 90% of these “donations” to his co-conspirators and keep 10% for himself. Investigators aptly named this scheme the “90/10 Tax Fraud Scheme.”
Other alleged schemes involved a "Corporate Matching Donation Fraud," where donors would write a check to a Chabad-affiliated non-profit and get a corporation to make a matching donation. The donor's check would then be funneled back to them and the matched amount would go to Goldstein, prosecutors said.
In another, the Rabbi and his co-conspirators created fake invoices for repairs to the Chabad of Poway from wildfire damage that never occurred in order to secure grants from federal and state emergency services, according to prosecutors.
Read more from the federal complaint against Goldstein here.
Goldstein established the Chabad of Poway in 1986 and served as the head of the synagogue until 2018. Chabad of Poway said in a statement Goldstein was relieved of his duties and his relationship with the synagogue was terminated when the board learned of the allegations against him. He was also dismissed by Chabad-Lubavitch Headquarters.