N.Y. Jewish cemetery robbed again

NEW YORK (JTA) — A New York Jewish cemetery has been robbed for the second time in less than a year.

Attorney Timothy Griffin stepped in to run United Hebrew Cemetery after the Staten Island burial ground’s longtime president Arthur Friedman and his wife, Ilana, were indicted for embezzling more than $1 million.

But in just 14 months overseeing the nonprofit cemetery, which is adjacent to the Hebrew Free Burial Association’s cemetery, Griffin, who had previously served as United Hebrew’s outside counsel, allegedly stole even more than the Friedmans — nearly $2 million, according to New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

On Monday, Schneiderman’s office announced Griffin’s arrest on felony grand larceny charges and said he faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the indictment unsealed Monday in Richmond County Supreme Court and statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, the Attorney General’s investigation revealed that Griffin, 54, stole the money between October 2012 and January 2014, making six unauthorized wire transfers ranging from $250,000 to $385,000 to his own attorney escrow account. He is currently being held on $750,000 bond over $250,000 cash bail.

In April 2013, Ilana Friedman was convicted of grand larceny charges, for stealing over $850,000 between 2005 and 2011. Both she and her husband Arthur Friedman were permanently banned from working in the funeral or cemetery industry in New York State. In November she paid $1.1 million in restitution and was sentenced to five years probation, as part of a civil settlement agreement.

Arthur Friedman, who at different times served as superintendent, president and board chairman, was not criminally charged, but court papers said he “failed to exercise proper oversight” and “failed to implement adequate internal controls.”

In addition to diverting $850,000 in cash from the cemetery, Ilana Friedman, 52, and her husband, 56, charged tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of goods and services for their personal use on the cemetery’s credit cards. In 2010, the last full year both were on the cemetery payroll, the Friedmans collectively drew more than $540,000 in salaries, according to tax forms.