When news broke last year that the FBI raided homes of 26 Lakewood ultra-Orthodox residents on charges of wrongfully collecting Medicaid, food stamps, SNAP, and SSI benefits, as well as evading property taxes that fund schools and municipal activities (see here), New Jersey Comptroller Philip J. Degnan issued a statement that said participants must make “full restitution of all improperly received funds.”
Unless, that is, if you’re a Lakewood Board of Education member. Or maybe just an ultra-Orthodox Jew who lives in Lakewood.
Today Stacey Barchenger of the Asbury Park Press reports that Board member Moshe S. Newhouse “cut a deal” that let him pay only 50 percent of the $48,000 he defrauded from the government from 2013-2015. How needy was he and his family of Medicaid and other government benefits intended for the impoverished? She writes,
Eleven days before he applied for amnesty, Newhouse took part in an agreement to buy a $500,000 Lakewood home and then finalized the $405,000 mortgage agreement in May, according to publicly available land records. Typically a mortgage requires a 20 percent down payment. It’s unclear from the public records how Newhouse paid the other $95,000 in the sale price.
Why do we care about Moshe Newhouse more than we’d care about illicit dealings by any other person, either one of those arrested for Medicaid fraud or one of the 159 who took advantage of an “amnesty” program offered only to Lakewood residents and advertised only by the Lakewood Vaad, a consortium of rabbis? (From the article: “The program swiftly drew backlash in the media and from Lakewood advocates who saw the program as special treatment for the township’s Orthodox Jewish population.”)
Sure, we’re in the age of Trump; anything goes and truth is a inconvenient technicality. But I cling by a thread to the premise that school board members should be role models for children, their parents, and resident taxpayers. We entrust them with authority to manage our children’s safety. We entrust them with authority to manage our children’s education. We entrust them with authority to manage our tax dollars. Shouldn’t they abide by laws governing equity and fairness?
According to Newhouse’s “Financial Disclosure Statement” to the NJ Schools Ethics Commission (required for all board members and public information) his only source of income comes from something called the “Lakewood Real Estate Groupe” (sic?). There is no listing for a “Lakewood Real Estate Group” or “Groupe.” Googling “Newhouse” + “Lakewood real estate” shows zero relevant results (except for the APP article and something on Zillow for a new house in Lakewood). The address for the source of his income on the School Ethics form, e.g., the location of Lakewood Real Estate Group/Groupe, is, according to googlemaps, a private home (very nice!) with no signage signifying a place of business.
You have to swear you’re not lying when you fill out your board member Financial Disclosure form by signing this: “I understand that this certification constitutes my representation of the accuracy of its contents. I hereby certify that these disclosure statements contain no willful misstatement or omission of material fact and constitute a full disclosure with respect to all matters required by N.J.S.A. 18A:12-21 et seq. I am aware that if I fail to file a statement or if I file a statement containing information that I know to be false, I shall be subject to disciplinary action up to and including removal pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:12-29.”
Hey, maybe it’s a sole proprietorship and he doesn’t need to advertise. Maybe he works out of a study in his house or uses a co-working space. Maybe it’s all kosher.
But stealing $48K from Medicaid funding, promptly buying a house for half a million dollars, only having to pay half of it back, and threatening to sue the APP for publishing public information?
Smells a little fishy to me.
*”Farshtunkene” is Yiddish for stinky.