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LAKEWOOD TAKEWOOD

Many of you have seen the many recent arrests in Lakewood which has, inclusive of today resulted in over 25  arrests. A brief synopsis of the allegations can be found here http://www.nj.com/ocean/index.ssf/2017/07/12_more_lakewood_residents_charged_in_massive_welf.html Now for those who do not know, Lakewood is a primarily Jewish Ultra Orthodox town in Northern New Jersey. Many of the residents do not work and do depend on government assistance, Unfortunately, Lakewood has also been home to some serious financial frauds and even a large Ponzi Scheme. As I Jew, and yes one who has been to prison, I am disturbed by these allegations.

Let me be very clear. These are merely allegations and conjecture at this time. I state first hand the 90% of what is written in the papers in not true, and that is being generous. I am not saying this is "Fake News", but as in most cases, the journalists tend embellish. After all, scandals sell papers, and the more scandalous, the better. Now I know very little about the allegations, am not a lawyer (thankfully) and have only glanced the initial charging documents. Again, it is worth keeping in mind that the only source of information contained in articles or documents comes from the prosecution. I am not saying they are not guilty, nor am I saying they are. I am just saying that as in many cases,  do nor believe everything you read.  At the same time, there is truth the the axiom of "where there is smoke there is fire".

Essentially, these individuals are being accused of understating or hiding income so that they can collect welfare, food stamps, etc. The fact that these individuals are said to be "ultra-religious" makes the alleged crime all the more heinous. I put "ultra-religious" in quotes simply because if these allegations are true, then in fact these are not religious people. Just because someone has a long beard and keeps certain commandments does not excuse violating to prohibition of "Thou shat not steal", even if the theft is from the government. It is not an excuse the claim that this is permitted because it is so rampant. Yes I am reasonably sure that even a run of the mill drug dealer can put in a claim for government assistance since his entire financial well being is illegal anyway. It is not as if he pays taxes of cocaine dealing income. Nevertheless, it is not an excuse. My motto is if you are going to dress the part, you better damn well act is as well. Otherwise, not only are you fooling yourself, but you are putting your entire community and religion in a negative light, which incidentally is another biblical prohibition! Sadly, we have seen anti Semitic signs being posted in lakewood in the past week.

The question is, assuming they are guilty, what is a fair punishment. Now, my belief is that whether they are innocent or guilty, they are all going to plead out. My money is 5-7 years for the men and 1-2 for the women. But really, what is a fair punishment. Do these people deserve to go to prison or is there an alternative remedy that will spare their families and not cost the taxpayer more than necessary. In short, will prison serve a purpose?

Referring back to my inaugural blog, http://www.whitecollarguru.com/2016/12/does-prison-serve-purpose-and-for-whom.html, you will see that one of the stated purposes of incarceration is that it serves as a deterrent for others who would think to commit a similar crime. I state, that in many cases this argument is flawed as either the defendant took a calculated risk and lost, or was unaware what he was doing was a crime to begin with, or simply took a plea to avoid the risk of trial. The argument that prison can serve a a deterrent for others is inherently flawed. Society does not need to be protected from these people either. Essentially, in this case the punishment is going to be punitive.

Or is it? The sad reality is that if these people did commit these crimes, I do not believe they viewed it as a calculated risk. If they committed these crimes, I so believe that they at the very least did know what they were doing was not exactly "glatt kosher". I also believe that these types of crimes are rampant. Now to take it a step further, when someone steals from the government, he is essentially stealing from every tax payer and from someone who legitimately qualifies for government assistance. Theft from the government on a grand scale amounts to theft from every tax paying american. Maybe, society does need to be protected from this person. Is he really that different than someone who steals a wallet when no one is looking?

It pains me to say so,  but yes, if these charges are proven these people belong in prison. The deterrent factor is there since no one who commits welfare fraud believes he will get caught and he certainly would not risk prison to commit such fraud. How much time is another matter. I do think that five years is a fair number with obvious restrictions with regard to government benefits going forward. I do believe that to the extent that there were married couples arrested together, that they will serve their times consecutively so as to lessen the blow for the children, who did nothing wrong and as is often the case are the real victims.

Now again, I am not passing judgment, and mark my words this will plead out, but if true, yes prison here will serve a purpose.

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