Toronto woman pleads not guilty to Holocaust fund fraud

A Toronto woman accused of taking part in a scheme to steal from a Holocaust survivors' fund has pleaded not guilty in a New York City court to fraud charges after surrendering to the FBI.

Luba Kramrish was charged in April after it was alleged she was part of a massive fraud against the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The fund, set up by Germany, was meant to compensate Jewish Holocaust survivors after the Second World War.

In documents obtained by CBC News, the FBI alleges that Kramrish was part of a conspiracy that falsified documents to claim financial support from the fund.

Kramrish, who appeared in a Federal Court in Manhattan, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud.

Her court appearance came after she surrendered to the FBI — a decision that was made after lengthy discussions between her lawyers and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

She looked tired when she appeared in the Manhattan court, CBC's Melissa Kent reported. She was wearing a short-sleeved leopard print satin shirt, brown pedal pushers and sandals.

Kramrish, 57, appeared alongside her U.S. lawyer John Conard. Her Canadian attorney, David Rose, was also present.

Judge James C. Francis spoke to the suspect through a Russian interpreter throughout the proceedings, but when it came time to enter a plea Kramrish stood up and said "not guilty" in English.

She was released on a $100,000 US personal recognizance bond, with $5,000 to be paid in cash and co-signed. Kramrish will keep her passport, but face travel restrictions that limit her to Ontario and parts of New York state.

She will also be supervised by a Buffalo-area Federal Court.

"Ms. Kramrish looks forward to making full answer and defence to the charges," Rose said Thursday.

If convicted, she could face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

Estimated $60M siphoned from fund

The U.S. Attorney's Office claims that Kramrish falsified details for her mother's application to the fund and that once she realized how to cheat the system, she started recruiting applicants, about two dozen of them.

In one case, the FBI says, she falsified details to get money for a man who never lived in an area occupied by Nazis. The U.S. indictment says that when he got the money, she took a cut.

The FBI announced charges against several U.S. citizens allegedly involved in the scheme in 2010.

The investigation is still underway, but it is estimated that at least $60 million has been siphoned from the fund.

About $6 billion has been paid out to about 450,000 people since the funds were made available.

With files from Melissa Kent

External Links

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany