By Karen Freifeld
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former caseworker for an organization that aids survivors of Nazi persecution was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Friday for her participation in a $57 million fraud scheme.
Polina Breyter, an employee of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa in Manhattan to make restitution of nearly half a million dollars.
Breyter, 69, of Brooklyn, New York, processed false applications and recruited ineligible applicants for reparation programs in exchange for payments, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. She pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
Breyter "played a central role" in the scheme against the organization that lasted more than a decade, Bharara said.
The Claims Conference administers programs sponsored by the German government to victims of Nazi atrocities.
Thirty-one people have been charged in the scheme, including 18 who have pleaded guilty, the statement said.
At least $12 million went through 3,839 apparently fraudulent applications submitted for people who were not eligible for a "Hardship Fund," including many born after World War II, according to U.S. Attorney Bharara. The fund makes a one-time payment of $3,500 to those who evacuated their homes and were forced to become refugees.
Conference employees are supposed to confirm that applicants qualify for payments. The fraud included doctored documents.
Another 1,112 cases processed for a program known as the "Article 2 Fund" were fraudulent, resulting in a loss of another $45 million, Bharara said.
The Article 2 Fund pays $400 a month to survivors who earn under $16,000 a year and either lived in hiding or under a false identity for 18 months, lived in a Jewish ghetto for 18 months, or were held for six months in a concentration camp or forced labor camp.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Gary Hill)