Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj
Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj. Photo credit: UC San Diego

The director of Chabad at UC San Diego pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring with former Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to defraud Qualcomm’s corporate matching program.

Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj, 47, of La Jolla, admitted to convincing at least three people to make fake donations to Friendship Circle, a non-sectarian organization run by Goldstein.

The former Chabad of Poway rabbi was sentenced earlier this month to 14 months in prison for running a series of fraudulent schemes, including a tax fraud in which supposed charitable donations made to the synagogue were funneled back to donors.

In what prosecutors have termed the “90/10” scheme, Goldstein accepted charitable donations, then would send about 90% of the funds back to the donors, while pocketing the remainder for himself. Donors would then falsely claim on tax forms that 100% of their donations went to the Chabad, with Goldstein providing the false donors with fake receipts.

In addition to the money Goldstein returned to them, co-defendants whose employers took part in corporate donation matching programs also pocketed the matching donation amounts provided by the companies, which were defrauded out of at least $144,000.

In Hadjadj’s case, Chabad at UCSD could not receive corporate matching funds from Qualcomm, since its corporate matching program excluded sectarian or denominational religious groups. To hide that Chabad at UCSD would be receiving the funds, Hadjadj told donors to write checks to Friendship Circle, then returned all or most of the donation in cash to the donors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Donors would then ask Qualcomm to match the donation and prosecutors say Goldstein sent about two-thirds of the matched funds to Hadjadj, then kept the remainder for himself.

Prosecutors say Hadjadj secured nearly $40,000 for Chabad at UCSD over the course of the scheme.

In a statement, Chabad of San Diego said Hadjadj was suspended from his position once it was revealed that he was being investigated. With the investigation complete, the Chabad said Hadjadj’s suspension is now permanent.

“It is our understanding that Rabbi Hadjadj’s actions were connected to Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who should have been a positive mentor to his younger colleague, but unfortunately proved to be the opposite,” the statement read. “While this development is not new, it is nevertheless deeply sad and disappointing.”

The Chabad statement said that Hadjadj’s involvement in the scheme was minor, was not motivated by personal gain and that he ended it on his own before he knew he was being investigated.

Nonetheless, the statement reads, “there is no excuse for such conduct. We are gratified that he has taken responsibility for his actions.”

Hadjadj is the 10th person to plead guilty in the case, while two others have agreed to deferred prosecution agreements, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Updated at 8:20 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022