A 49-year-old is facing 21 years in jail for trying to bank on a child sex abuse scandal surrounding Borough Park cantor Baruch Lebovits.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes charged Samuel Kellner with attempted grand larceny and perjury on April 13 for encouraging a young man to claim that Lebovits had abused him and for extorting $400,000 from Lebovits’s family to prevent “new victims” from testifying.
Lebovits is currently serving a 32-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy on eight separate occasions back in 2005. The teen claimed that Lebovits lured him into a car and performed sex acts on him.
Kellner was the one who found and encouraged this victim to come forward.
But then he decided to pad his own pockets, investigators charge.
Prosecutors said Kellner paid a second young man $10,000 to falsely accuse Lebovits of sexual molestation. Kellner then sent emissaries to Lebovits’s family, demanding money in exchange to stop the new victim from testifying. He also told the family that the money would silence a third victim that didn’t exist.
Despite the scam surrounding the scandal, Hynes is not going to drop the charges against Lebovits. Kellner may have encouraged the first victim to come forward, but prosecutors believe that the man’s testimony is entirely credible.
The testimony from the man Kellner paid to come forward is another story, Hynes said.
“Child abuse has to be prosecuted vigorously, but we also have to be careful about false complaints,” Hynes explained.
Yet Kellner’s arrest has emboldened Lebovits’s attorneys to demand a new trial.
Attorney Arthur Aidala, who is currently pushing an appeal, has always contended that Lebovits was targeted because he was a successful owner of a travel agency and that his son recently won the lottery in Israel.
“[Lebovits] is being extorted because one of his sons recently found wealth,” Aidala said. “Kellner’s arrest goes a long way to prove our theory that all these charges are false.”
DA nabs day care kidder
Brooklyn prosecutors have arrested a 63-year-old Coney Island day car operator who bilked the state out of $25,000 by fabricating “paper children” that were fraudulently enrolled in her programs.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said that Liliana Godzhinsky, head of the Luna Park Day Care Center on W. 12th Street, provided inflated attendance records to the city’s Administration of Children’s Services when she went trolling for state funding back in 2008.
The state gave Godzhinsky $25,000 more than it should have, Hynes explained.
“Stealing from children is among the lowest of crimes, and that is exactly what this defendant did by depleting state education funds to line her own pockets,” Hynes said.
Investigators began focusing on Godzhinsky after she tried to enlist the help of a Coney Island parent, offering the woman $5,000 to say she had enrolled her child into the Luna Park Day Care Center when she didn’t.
The would-be co-conspirator later became a confidential informant for the DA, and secretly recorded conversations with Godzhinsky as the day care operator laid out her plans about bilking the state.
Attempts to reach Godzhinsky’s attorney were unsuccessful by Monday evening.