6 more Lakewood couples charged in benefits fraud probe

Posted: Updated:
LAKEWOOD -

Authorities say six more couples have been charged with theft as part of an investigation that has uncovered more than $2 million in public welfare benefits going to New Jersey families that made too much to receive them.

Prosecutors in Ocean County announced the charges on Thursday and say the six couples received nearly $400,000 combined in Medicaid, food, heating and other benefits.

According to a news release from the prosecutor’s office, complaint summons for third-degree theft by deception were served on the following people:

  • Eliezer Sorotzkin, 33, and Elkie Sorotzkin, 31, of West Spruce Street, for allegedly wrongfully collecting approximately $74,960 in Medicaid benefits between January 2011 and December 2013.
  • Samuel Serhofer, 45, and Esther Serhofer, 44, of Whispering Pines Lane, for allegedly wrongfully collecting approximately $72,685 in Medicaid benefits between January 2009 and December 2013.
  • Yisroel Merkin, 37, and Rachel Merkin, 34, of Hermosa Drive, for allegedly wrongfully collecting approximately $70,557.51 in Medicaid, SNAP and HEAP benefits between January 2011 and December 2014.
  •  Jerome Menchel, 33, and Mottel Friedman, 30, of Pressburg Lane, for allegedly wrongfully collecting $63,839 in Medicaid and SNAP benefits between January 2011 and July 2014.
  • Tzvi Braun, 35, and Estee Braun, 34, of Ridge Avenue, for allegedly wrongfully collecting $62,746.74 in Medicaid, HEAP and CICRF benefits between January 2009 and December 2013.
  • Moshe Hirschmann, 30, and Nechama Hirschmann 27, of Emmanuel Drive, for allegedly wrongfully collecting $53,418.39 in Medicaid and SNAP benefits between January 2011 and December 2015.

The total number of people arrested in the investigation now stands at 26. Those arrested include a rabbi and the former leader of a Jewish religious school.

Investigators say that they uncovered the fraud by tracking money transfers at a local Beepers Plus store. The owner of that store has pleaded guilty to transmitting millions of dollars without a license.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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