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Synagogue Bookkeeper Convicted of Fraud

October 1, 2003

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal jury convicted a 74-year-old bookkeeper Tuesday on charges she helped embezzle $1.2 million from the suburban synagogue where she worked for almost 40 years.

Betty Shusterman was convicted of 46 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bank fraud and tax evasion. She faces a four- to five-year prison term when she is sentenced early next year, prosecutors said.

Her attorneys did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Shusterman conspired with synagogue executive director Barry Wilf to siphon off the money between 1993 and 2000, pocketing about $300,000.

Wilf pleaded guilty in June to bank fraud, mail fraud and tax evasion.

Much of the cash went to a secret bank account for the fictional ``Temple Sinai Breakfast Club,″ prosecutors said.

The undiscovered thefts drained away a tenth of the synagogue’s budget and left it in severe financial distress, prosecutors said. Its staff was forced to take a 5 percent pay cut in 1998.

Shusterman had been the bookkeeper at Temple Sinai in Dresher, about 12 miles north of Philadelphia, since 1963.