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Woman from Canada convicted of defrauding two funds set up to help Holocaust survivors

A Toronto woman has been found guilty of being part of a long-running plot to defraud two funds set up to help Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Luba Kramrish and two others were convicted in a Manhattan federal court on Wednesday. Already, 28 other people had been found guilty in the conspiracy, which siphoned more than $57-million (U.S.) from the funds, authorities said.

The 58-year-old Ms. Kramrish and co-defendants Semen Domnitser, 55, and Oksana Romalis, 43, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of mail fraud. They are to be sentenced Sept. 10. The maximum sentences for each count is 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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The scheme for which they were convicted was an "unconscionable fraud," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "We said we would not stop until we brought to justice those who committed these unthinkable crimes and today our objective was accomplished."

The target of the fraud was the Manhattan office of a non-profit agency, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

The conference managed two funds that were set up by the German government to assist victims of the Nazi regime. The Hardship Fund gave a one-time payment of about $3,500 to Jewish survivors who had to flee their homes ahead of the Nazi occupation. The Article 2 Fund paid about $400 a month to survivors who had to go into hiding or were held in a ghetto, labour camp or concentration camp.

The investigation showed that nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications had been processed during a 16-year span until it was exposed in November, 2010.

In court documents, the prosecution alleged that Ms. Kramrish, Ms. Romalis and another defendant acted as recruiters in the fraud.

"Those recruiters collected identification documents of people primarily in the Russian-Jewish community so that the identification documents would be used in support of a fraudulent application to the Article 2 Fund or the Hardship Fund," the prosecution said in a court motion last March.

"These recruiters passed the documents to a corrupt employee of the Claims Conference in exchange for a portion of the money the applicants received."

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Mr. Domnitser was one of 10 former fund employees who were convicted.

In another court filing, the prosecution described how a witness would testify that, after submitting a false claim, he was instructed to pay $2,500 to $3,000 in bribes to members of the ring, which he had to mail in a series of $500 money orders.

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