West Bloomfield Township, MI - FBI Raids Michigan Jewish Institute Over Allegations Of Defrauding The Federal Government
Last updated on: July 8, 2015 04:52 PM
West Bloomfield Township, MI - After years of seemingly suspicious activities, the FBI raided the Michigan Jewish Institute (MJI) yesterday, with approximately 15 federal agents targeting MJI’s administrative offices in Southfield.
Ha’aretz writes (http://bit.ly/1MeHRVO) that employees there were directed into a conference room, where agents took their contact information and sent them home. While the exact reason for the raid is unclear, there is some evidence pointing to $25 million in Federal Pell Grants claimed by the Institute over a five-year period.
Pell Grants are intended for America’s poorest students, but these grants were issued to students who either never attended or graduated the Institute or lived in Israel when these monies were disbursed in their names. Of the students who took any academic courses at all, most enrolled in Judaic studies classes at yeshivas and seminaries in Israel.
Yet, somehow, MJI has expanded its student body from 300 students in 2004 to over 2,000 students today, even though there are almost no students present on the campus. Still, these overseas students are eligible for Pell Grants because they are U.S. citizens, and can qualify for up to $5,730 per student for financial assistance. Moreover, MJI’s assets have increased despite its poor academic record from $1.2 million in 2008 to $4.6 million in 2013.
The Institute charges students $2,500 for a so-called study-abroad program, as well as a tuition fee payable to the host school overseas.
According to a study conducted by the Forward in 2012, only 10% of students in 2012 completed their freshman years and went on to a sophomore year. Following the Forward’s investigation, 40% of students went on to complete a second year, and a total of 20 bachelor’s degrees were awarded.
Of the classes that are conducted on site, those are held in what’s known as “The Shul,” a sprawling $6 million synagogue located in the heart of the 45-acre Campus of Living Judaism, an affiliate of Chabad- Lubavitch.
In 2013, MJI was granted permission by the West Bloomfield Township to expand “The Shul” even further by adding a third building on the Campus of Living Judaism. That building was intended to house 42 administrative staff and six classrooms.
But just as that work was about to begin, MJI started having issues with its accreditation. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools denied MJI’s renewal request three times before finally approving it in April 2014.
Both ACICS and MJI declined to disclose the issues surrounding the re-accreditation. Neither Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, MJI’s president, nor Dov Stein, MJI’s director of academic administration, would comment on the FBI raid or pending allegations.
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