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New York - KJ Also Targeted In FBI E-Rate Raids; Program Has Long Been Abused, Insiders Say

Published on: March 20, 2016 01:49 PM
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FBI agents in Rockland County last week. (Sandy Eller/VINnews.com)FBI agents in Rockland County last week. (Sandy Eller/VINnews.com)

New York - The FBI raids that targeted more than twenty addresses in Ramapo and Brooklyn last week reached as far north as Orange County, with two locations in Kiryas Joel also targeted by federal agents.

According to News 12 reports, agents carried out raids at one address on Filmore Court in the heart of Kiryas Joel and another on Zlotchev Way, a cul de sac adjacent to the Quickway. The Kiryas Joel raids took place at the same time as the searches in Ramapo last Wednesday afternoon.

The online E-Rate database lists only seven of the many private schools in Kiryas Joel as program participants, with no raids taking place at the top three E-Rate recipients in the village, United Talmudical Academy, Congregation Bnai Joel and Sheri Torah, which received over $11.2 million in federal funding under the program over the last 18 years.

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Many questions have been raised, however, about why schools that vehemently oppose computers and internet have been recipients of technology funding.

The FBI confirmed that over 300 agents and officers were involved in last week’s raids, as reported by The Journal News.  22 of those searches took place in Ramapo but little information has been released regarding the operation.

A U.S. Attorney’s office statement confirmed that the searches were conducted a part of an ongoing fraud investigation but that information about the raids would only be released if and when charges were filed in the matter.

The E-Rate program was created by President Bill Clinton in 1996, at a time when schools were just beginning to take advantage of the technology boom and less than 15 percent of elementary and high schools had internet access.  Part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, it was funded by fees charged to interstate and international telecommunications service providers in order to subsidize affordable telecommunications and internet services to economically disadvantaged schools nationwide.  Currently run by the non-profit Universal Service Administration Co. for the Federal Communications Commission, the program provides 20 to 90 percent of the costs of eligible services to qualifying schools.

The E-Rate program has been the subject of much controversy and a magnet for fraudsters for years. 

From its earliest days, the program was dogged by legal challenges from eleven states and six telecommunications companies and reports of misuse have continued for years. 

A 2005 CNET reported that Puerto Rican school officials took advantage of $101 million in E-Rate funding over a six year period ending in 2004 but only managed to wire nine of the island’s approximately 1,500 schools, earning the commonwealth’s secretary of education Victor Fajardo-Velez three years in prison and a $4 million fine. Chicago public schools were found to have improperly stockpiled more than $8 million of equipment that was never installed and sometimes double-billed. 

Computer company NEC paid more than $21 million in fines and free services after being charged with both fraud and price-rigging in connection with the E-Rate program in the San Francisco Unified School District as well as several others.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, an Atlanta school district spent $73 million in federal funding without seeking competitive bids, with one local newspaper reporting that the entire amount was “misspent or mismanaged.”

Some critics say that by offering a 90 percent discount, the program encourages schools to overspend on equipment they don’t need because they are spending so little out of pocket.

“If you bumped their portion to 25 to 30 percent, they would have a bigger stake,” said Jeannene Hurley, Michigan E-Rate coordinator.  “If they had more invested, they might think more about getting that multimillion-dollar server.”

Others say that the structure of the entire E-Rate program is flawed,  with Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity describing the structure of the corporations involved in the program as “almost a formula for fraud and abuse.”

“E-Rate is the classic example of a program that was begun with good intentions and has found itself suffering from corruption because there wasn’t sufficient oversight,” said Williams.

In its earliest days, E-Rate had a single auditor responsible for monitoring 35,000 applications annually.  Since that time the number has grown and The USAC employs a staff of lawyers to oversee the tens of thousands of applications it receives each year and also has a dedicated whistleblower line where callers can anonymously reported any suspected abuse.


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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Mar 20, 2016 at 02:03 PM common-sense Says:

The article says that questions have been raised as to why schools that oppose computers and internet need a government technology program. The schools do not oppose computer use. Also, many schools are OK with the internet as long as it is filtered.

This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools.

2

 Mar 20, 2016 at 02:18 PM wsbrgh Says:

Bs'd. A rosh yeshiva once told me that as soon as you accept the open hand of the gov't you can count on trouble.

3

 Mar 20, 2016 at 02:43 PM gersh Says:

Reply to #2  
wsbrgh Says:

Bs'd. A rosh yeshiva once told me that as soon as you accept the open hand of the gov't you can count on trouble.

Really? That must be a really smart "rosh hayesheva". Think about what you quoted him saying. If you accept help that is being provided... You are looking for trouble? Or is it that the fraudsters amongst us, who look like they are religious and dress the part, decide to start scheming and figuring out how to rip off every program dedicated to helping people / institutions ? Perhaps he should be telling his yeshiva not to abuse programs or steal from the government. That might be a very novel approach.

4

 Mar 20, 2016 at 03:10 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
common-sense Says:

The article says that questions have been raised as to why schools that oppose computers and internet need a government technology program. The schools do not oppose computer use. Also, many schools are OK with the internet as long as it is filtered.

This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools.

Oh the schools don't oppose computers? So why don't they offer classes for their students that teach them basic computer skills? They can completely lock and disable the internet. Yet why not teach the kids how basic Microsoft office skills (like excel & word). Its probably more vital now-days than physical engish classes. yet the schools won't offer anything that needs a computer. So I don't buy that its just the internet.

5

 Mar 20, 2016 at 03:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
common-sense Says:

The article says that questions have been raised as to why schools that oppose computers and internet need a government technology program. The schools do not oppose computer use. Also, many schools are OK with the internet as long as it is filtered.

This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools.

"This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools"

Why is it always "lies" when we get caught? Sooner or later, we have to be a light unto our people. Fraud doesn't exactly endear us to Hashem. Why is it that the Catholic schools who got the same money were investigated and they actually have computers which their students use on a daily basis. Even our high school kids don't know how to turn on a PC.....they are so scared they will be expelled from yeshiva.

6

 Mar 20, 2016 at 03:33 PM LionofZion Says:

Wow,
Comment #1, please let us know which Yeshivos in Monsey allow internet under any circumstances.

Comment #2, I once heard a prominent Rosh Yeshiva say that you are not supposed to steal. Why would you blame the government rather than the schools that stole? Nebech, we have a generation growing up believing that right is wrong and wrong is right. Why would you feed into that?

7

 Mar 20, 2016 at 03:46 PM savtat Says:

And, maybe you could do it straight?????

8

 Mar 20, 2016 at 04:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
wsbrgh Says:

Bs'd. A rosh yeshiva once told me that as soon as you accept the open hand of the gov't you can count on trouble.

not if the funds are being used on what they are intended for

9

 Mar 20, 2016 at 04:03 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
common-sense Says:

The article says that questions have been raised as to why schools that oppose computers and internet need a government technology program. The schools do not oppose computer use. Also, many schools are OK with the internet as long as it is filtered.

This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools.

they very much oppose technology use, for sure 11 million dollars worth of use

10

 Mar 20, 2016 at 04:10 PM Taxbucky Says:

Reply to #2  
wsbrgh Says:

Bs'd. A rosh yeshiva once told me that as soon as you accept the open hand of the gov't you can count on trouble.

Only if you misuse the funds!

11

 Mar 20, 2016 at 05:32 PM ExpatriateOwl Says:

Reply to #1  
common-sense Says:

The article says that questions have been raised as to why schools that oppose computers and internet need a government technology program. The schools do not oppose computer use. Also, many schools are OK with the internet as long as it is filtered.

This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools.

If the schools do not oppose computer use, why are students who are known to have e-mail accounts expelled. And why are students expelled because their PARENTS have Internet service in the home?

12

 Mar 20, 2016 at 07:14 PM fat36 Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

"This reporting is based on ignorance or an attempt spread lies about Jewish schools"

Why is it always "lies" when we get caught? Sooner or later, we have to be a light unto our people. Fraud doesn't exactly endear us to Hashem. Why is it that the Catholic schools who got the same money were investigated and they actually have computers which their students use on a daily basis. Even our high school kids don't know how to turn on a PC.....they are so scared they will be expelled from yeshiva.

Ask one of the kids what does PC mean

13

 Mar 20, 2016 at 09:53 PM whataworld Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Oh the schools don't oppose computers? So why don't they offer classes for their students that teach them basic computer skills? They can completely lock and disable the internet. Yet why not teach the kids how basic Microsoft office skills (like excel & word). Its probably more vital now-days than physical engish classes. yet the schools won't offer anything that needs a computer. So I don't buy that its just the internet.

I don't know where you got your info. But as a graduate of the United Talmudical Academy School for Girls I myself had computer classes in school. I learnt Microsoft word, Excel, QuickBooks and Powerpoint.

14

 Mar 20, 2016 at 10:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
whataworld Says:

I don't know where you got your info. But as a graduate of the United Talmudical Academy School for Girls I myself had computer classes in school. I learnt Microsoft word, Excel, QuickBooks and Powerpoint.

" I learnt Microsoft word"
UNFORTUNATELY, YOU DIDN'T LEARN ENGLISH. English is more important for a job than anything else.

15

 Mar 21, 2016 at 01:45 AM Speaksoftly Says:

Reply to #6  
LionofZion Says:

Wow,
Comment #1, please let us know which Yeshivos in Monsey allow internet under any circumstances.

Comment #2, I once heard a prominent Rosh Yeshiva say that you are not supposed to steal. Why would you blame the government rather than the schools that stole? Nebech, we have a generation growing up believing that right is wrong and wrong is right. Why would you feed into that?

"I once heard a rosh yeshiva say you should not steal"Really? Wasn't that already covered inלא תגנוב? It's not a chumra! But we should not rush to judgement - let the truth come out first.

16

 Mar 21, 2016 at 02:36 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Oh the schools don't oppose computers? So why don't they offer classes for their students that teach them basic computer skills? They can completely lock and disable the internet. Yet why not teach the kids how basic Microsoft office skills (like excel & word). Its probably more vital now-days than physical engish classes. yet the schools won't offer anything that needs a computer. So I don't buy that its just the internet.

when was the last time you were in school? must have been in the 70's. My children learned computer skills (quickbooks, Microsoft office, etc.) in Beth Rachel school. They subsequently had well-paying jobs in the financial world. You don't need to have internet access for computer courses or the English language.
all you self-hating jews get your facts straight.

17

 Mar 21, 2016 at 11:41 AM RocklandRes Says:

God bless Phreet and the FBI.

18

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