Ex-CEO gets prison for stealing from NYC charity

July 23, 2014 - 1:36 PM
Charity CEO Probe

William Rapfogel, who formerly led the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, arrives for his sentencing hearing in New York state Supreme Court, Wednesday July 23, 2014. Rapfogel was sentenced Wednesday to a term of 40 months to 10 years in prison for helping to steal more than $9 million from the anti-poverty organization. He has paid $3 million in restitution. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — The politically connected former CEO of a prominent New York City charity was sentenced to prison Wednesday for helping to steal more than $9 million from the anti-poverty organization.

William Rapfogel, who once headed the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, will serve a term of 40 months to 10 years in a case that rattled New York's political circles. Authorities linked the decades-long theft to campaign contributions, and both the charity and Rapfogel himself have deep political ties. His wife, who's not accused of any involvement in his scheme, is Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's chief of staff.

"I deeply regret harming the organization that I worked 21 years to build and that I hurt and disappointed many people," Rapfogel said as he was sentenced. "I have tried hard to make amends, but I also recognize that what I did was seriously wrong and that I will continue to pay a steep price for my actions. I am terribly sorry."

His wife, Judy, and other supporters looked on as Rapfogel was led out of court, uncuffed, to start serving his term. Rapfogel, who pleaded guilty in April to grand larceny and other charges, also has paid $3 million in restitution.

Rapfogel became the executive director of the Met Council, as it is known, in 1992. He soon joined several conspirators in conniving to overcharge the charity for insurance so they could pocket the difference, state prosecutors said.

"He conspired with others to steal over $9 million, and personally stole over $1 million, from the people who needed it most, to benefit himself and his lifestyle," Assistant Attorney General Gary Fishman said at the sentencing.

Rapfogel used $27,000 of that money to pay a contractor working on his home, and he had more than $400,000 in cash hidden in his home when investigators searched it in August 2013, authorities said.

Insurance company owner Joseph Ross and former Met Council Executive Director David Cohen also pleaded guilty in the scheme.

As part of it, Rapfogel and Cohen directed Ross to use money reaped from the insurance scam to make donations to candidates Rapfogel believed could help the Met Council, the attorney general has said. No candidates have been accused of wrongdoing.

After the allegations emerged, several New York City Democratic mayoral candidates decided to return contributions related to the insurance company, mostly received years ago. Among them was now-Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose campaign gave back $1,650 given in the 2009 election cycle.

Both Silver and Rapfogel's wife have said they knew nothing about Rapfogel's misdeeds, and no official made any connection between the donations and Silver's office.

"My heart goes out to the family," Silver said in a statement Wednesday.

Judy Rapfogel declined to comment as she left court.

Rapfogel was fired in August from the $340,000-a-year job.