Rabbi Shot in Synagogue Attack Is Sentenced to Prison in Fraud Schemes
Yisroel Goldstein, who was wounded in the deadly 2019 attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue, north of San Diego, was sentenced to 14 months in fraud schemes in which, prosecutors say, he received more than $500,000.,
Yisroel Goldstein, who was wounded in the deadly 2019 attack on the Chabad of Poway synagogue, north of San Diego, was sentenced to 14 months in fraud schemes in which, prosecutors say, he received more than $500,000.
A rabbi who was shot and wounded during a deadly attack on his synagogue north of San Diego in 2019 was sentenced on Tuesday to 14 months in prison for engaging in yearslong, multimillion-dollar fraud schemes, prosecutors said.
The sentence handed down by Judge Cynthia A. Bashant of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California exceeded the recommendations of federal prosecutors and the rabbi’s lawyers, both of whom had recommended home confinement.
The rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein, 60, the former director of the Chabad of Poway, was also ordered to pay $2,834,608 in restitution for the schemes, which involved phony contributions to the Chabad and affiliated charities and through which he personally received more than $500,000, prosecutors said.
“You dragged down so many congregants,” Judge Bashant said in imposing the sentence, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
“I think time in custody is important,” she said. “It’s important to send a message to the community, and it’s important to send a message to you.”
Rabbi Goldstein’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. In court papers recommending that he be sentenced to four months of home detention, they said that he had accepted responsibility for his actions by laying out the details of his schemes in a guilty plea and had cooperated with the authorities.
“I have let myself down and everything I have been 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,” Mr. Goldstein wrote in a letter to the judge.
He asked the judge to “accept my repentance for the damages and severe disappointment that I have caused.”
“I often wonder why I survived the shooting,” he wrote. “The universe must have faith in a better future for me, to become a better person and to make whole for my past sins and transgressions.”
Rabbi Goldstein had emerged as a prominent voice of resilience and determination after a gunman who was yelling antisemitic slurs attacked the Chabad of Poway, in Poway, Calif., killing a woman and injuring three other people on April 27, 2019, during the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Rabbi Goldstein, who was already under investigation in connection with the fraud schemes at the time of the attack, was shot in both hands and lost an index finger. In the days after, he condemned antisemitism at the United Nations and spoke at a National Day of Prayer event at the White House with President Donald J. Trump.
“I guarantee you, we will not be intimidated or deterred by terror,” he said after the shooting. “Terror will not win.”
In September, the man who carried out the attack, John T. Earnest of San Diego, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in a deal that spared him the death penalty. Mr. Earnest, who had expressed a desire to kill Jews and Muslims, had also pleaded guilty to setting fire to a mosque.
Rabbi Goldstein established the Chabad of Poway in 1986 and had served as its director and head rabbi until 2018, prosecutors said.
He began cooperating with the authorities shortly after federal agents executed search warrants at his home in October 2018, and he worked undercover for the government, his lawyers said in court papers.
In July 2020, Rabbi Goldstein and five associates pleaded guilty to their roles in the schemes, which was intended to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, several Fortune 500 companies, and several public and private agencies.
Prosecutors said that in his plea agreement, Rabbi Goldstein had acknowledged that, while he was director of the synagogue, he had received at least $6.2 million in phony contributions to the Chabad and affiliated charities and had secretly refunded up to 90 percent of the donations to the bogus donors.
After he provided the donors with fake receipts, they claimed illegal tax deductions, and Rabbi Goldstein kept about 10 percent for himself, prosecutors said.
Rabbi Goldstein acknowledged that he had also defrauded three companies by “tricking them into matching supposed charitable donations of their employees,” prosecutors said in a statement.
In court papers, prosecutors recommended that Rabbi Goldstein be sentenced to eight months of home detention. They said the attack on the synagogue was “a driving factor behind the extraordinary departure and sentencing recommendation of the United States.”
“Following the shooting, Rabbi Goldstein repeatedly spoke out about the attack, and was the face of the community both locally and nationally, despite his injury and PTSD,” prosecutors wrote in court papers.
In a statement on Tuesday, Randy Grossman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said that the sentence handed down by Judge Bashant “accounts for these extraordinary circumstances and our office’s mission to always seek justice.”
“Yisroel Goldstein exploited his position and stature as a faith leader to commit well-planned and carefully executed crimes of greed,” Mr. Grossman said.