SAN DIEGO (CNS) — The former director of Chabad at UC San Diego was sentenced Friday to three years of probation for his role in a scheme that defrauded Qualcomm's donation matching program.
Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal conspiracy to commit wire fraud count. As part of his plea, he admitted to getting three people to make fake donations to Friendship Circle, a non- sectarian organization run by ex-Chabad of Poway rabbi Yisroel Goldstein.
Qualcomm matched the donations as part of its corporate donation matching program, but the money actually went to Chabad at UCSD because Qualcomm's program excludes sectarian or denominational religious groups. Prosecutors say Hadjadj told donors to write checks to Friendship Circle, then returned all or most of the donation in cash to the donors, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Goldstein sent about two-thirds of the matched funds to Hadjadj, then kept the remainder for himself.
Prosecutors say Hadjadj secured nearly $40,000 for Chabad at UCSD over the course of the scheme.
The scheme was part of a larger series of fraudulent activities orchestrated by Goldstein, who was sentenced to 14 months in prison earlier this year.
Prosecutors and Hadjadj's attorney agreed to recommend a probation term for Hadjadj, which U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant imposed on Friday.
The prosecution's sentencing papers state, "Rabbi Hadjadj is, however, very differently situated from Rabbi Goldstein. Rabbi Hadjadj seems to have genuinely been trying to raise money for Chabad at UCSD, albeit in an illegal way."
Prosecutors also noted that the amount of money defrauded in Hadjadj's case is lower than most taken by Goldstein and other co-defendants and that Hadjadj "did not personally benefit from the scheme."
Hadjadj's attorney, Eugene Iredale, wrote in his sentencing documents that his client ended his part in the scheme in 2017, prior to the criminal investigation into the activities of Goldstein and others involved.
"He has suffered the consequences of his crime acutely: the loss of his reputation and standing in the community, the loss of his position with Chabad UCSD, and the nearly certain loss of his employment upon sentencing," Iredale wrote. The attorney wrote that Hadjadj has since discussed his crime with students, clergy and community members in a bid to dissuade others from making similar mistakes.
Nearly a dozen people, including Hadjadj and Goldstein, have pleaded guilty in connection with the investigation.