(CN) - Five former employees of a group that helps compensate victims of Nazi persecution were among those arrested Wednesday for an alleged scheme that stole $57 million intended for Holocaust victims.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany employees are accused of approving nearly 5,000 fraudulent applications in exchange for kickbacks, according to the newly unsealed complaints and depositions of FBI agents.
Eight people were charged in the complaint, and a ninth, Lana Kagan, is expected to surrender on Thursday.
To date, the Justice Department has charged 30 people in connection to the fraud, which the FBI has been investigating since December 2009.
As part of the scheme, investigators say defendants submitted claims to the conference's "hardship fund" with falsified information. That fund, sponsored by the German government, pays eligible applicants $3,500 for fleeing Nazi persecution.
"We have identified numerous applications for payment under the hardship fund in which the applicants' names and social security numbers are valid, but where the dates of birth were doctored to make the applicant appear to be born during or before World War II," FBI Special Agent Carrie Fisher said in her deposition.
The claims conference determined that 3,839 of its hardship fund applications appear fraudulent, causing $12.3 million in losses for the fund.
Some of the conspirators acted as "recruiters" for fraudulent claims, recruiting members of the Russian Jewish community to obtain identification documents, and eventually passing them to a claims conference employee, investigators said.
The five claims conference employees arrested Wednesday were Genrikh Kolontyrskiy, Viktor Levin, Ella Voskresenskiy, Henry Gordon and Zlata Blavatnik.
All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.