Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj of UC San Diego Chabad has pleaded guilty to fraud.
Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj of UC San Diego Chabad has pleaded guilty to fraud.

A second San Diego Chabad rabbi named in Poway scandal

This piece first appeared in the Forward.

The sprawling financial fraud case centered around former Chabad of Poway rabbi Yisroel Goldstein has reeled in a second San Diego-area rabbi.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that the founder of Chabad of UC San Diego, Yehuda Hadjadj, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Goldstein to defraud a local company’s donation matching program.

The 10th guilty plea in the case has increased the scope of what was long thought of as a lone rabbi’s malfeasance to a second Chabad house. There is one more San Diego religious leader whose crimes are described in court documents but who has not yet been publicly identified.

In one of Goldstein’s myriad schemes, an employee of Qualcomm, a Fortune 500 company based in San Diego, would donate to the Friendship Circle of San Diego, a nonprofit for people with disabilities affiliated with Chabad of Poway. After Qualcomm matched the donation, Goldstein would secretly return the money to the donor and keep the matching amount for himself, assuring the donor a tax refund for the full amount.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein walks towards a press conference with Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, April 28, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Sandy Huffaker-AFP-Getty Images)
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein walks towards a press conference with Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, April 28, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Sandy Huffaker-AFP-Getty Images)

Hadjadj’s main role in Goldstein’s scheme was recruiting new participants. According to court documents, at least three were recruited, over an approximately seven-year span beginning in 2010. For his role in the scheme, Hadjadj received two-thirds of the matching funds from those participants, totaling about $40,000, and Goldstein kept the rest.

Hadjadj faces up to five years in prison. Earlier this month, Goldstein was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

In a statement, Chabad of San Diego, the umbrella organization for Chabad centers in the area, said it had learned of the investigation “some time ago” and suspended him immediately, a suspension it has since made permanent. It called the development “deeply sad and disappointing.”

Chabad of San Diego did not say how or when it had learned of the investigation. Hadjadj has been involved in Chabad events on campus as recently as Nov. 9. By then, he had been identified in court documents as a “San Diego religious leader” and by his initials for nearly a year.

Hadjadj, 47, founded Chabad of UCSD in 2005, more than two decades after Goldstein became the second Chabad rabbi in the San Diego area.

Louis Keene
Louis Keene

Louis Keene is a staff reporter at the Forward. He can be reached at [email protected]forward.com or on Twitter @thislouis.

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