Shul official guilty of taking over $46,000
TORONTO — The former president of the Adath Israel Congregation’s brotherhood was sentenced to a 12-month non-custodial sentence for stealing more than $46,000 from the synagogue.
Neil Osak was sentenced to six months of house arrest followed by a six months of curfew for fraudulently taking synagogue funds to pay for personal expenses.
“This offence was a classic breach of trust,” said Judge Neil Kozloff of the Ontario Court of Justice. “Community organizations are charitable organizations. Mr. Osak… stole from the do-gooders to address issues in his personal life.”
Judge Kozloff largely accepted the recommendations of Crown attorney Rochelle Liberman, who had asked for a 12-month conditional sentence.
Osak “committed a huge fraud and a huge betrayal of trust and he used his position in the synagogue to do it,” Liberman said.
Defence council Moshe Micha had asked for a conditional discharge, which would have left Osak without a criminal record. Micha pointed out that Osak had returned all the funds to the synagogue. He argued that Osak was remorseful, his marriage collapsed, he became depressed, and he lost his standing in the community. He also stated that Osak was not likely to be involved in future criminal activity.
At the time of the offence, between August 2008 and September 2010, Osak was struggling financially and took the easy way out. But when arrested, he never denied what he had done and has begun to put his life back on track, Micha said.
He is now working for a seafood processor in Montreal with a responsibility for marketing and business development. A criminal record would make it difficult for him to find work and could jeopardize his current job in Montreal, he said, adding Osak is unlikely to commit another crime.
“He’s expressed from the very beginning how ashamed and remorseful he is for what he’s done,” Micha stated.
Speaking on his own behalf, Osak presented an emotional plea for clemency. He said he took the money when he became pressed by creditors and couldn’t pay them. His business had taken a turn for the worse and he was facing expenses of more than $6,000 a month that he couldn’t pay. Creditors were calling six or seven times a day. He was finding it hard to get work done.
“It came to the point where I just snapped,” he said.
Using blank cheques the synagogue had available for times officials were away, Osak spent the money “for food and the sustenance of my family… I have records to prove where the money went, what it was spent on,” he said.
When news of the charges became public, he was shunned by the community. It led to his divorce, as well.
“The whole ordeal cost me my family, my friends. My children don’t trust me anymore,” Osak said.
Referencing the presence of The CJN in court, Osak said “I’ll be persecuted again” and the “stigma” of his actions would follow him.
“This whole thing has ruined me physically and emotionally… I’m in my own jail now. I live in constant fear of being found out for what I did.”
“Everything I tried to protect and save, I lost.”
Osak said he “took the easy way out” when he became desperate. He is putting his life back together in Montreal, but a criminal record would make it hard for him to get work or be bonded, he added.
“I beg for your mercy, that’s all,” Osak said.