Saturday, February 22, 2014

Former synagogue director accused of embezzlement

The former executive director of Congregation Beth El in La Jolla has admitted to using his position to embezzle more than $390,000 from the congregation, according to statements made by leaders of Beth El.

Eric Levine had worked as Beth El's executive director from July 2007 to December of last year. During that time, the married father of two, who oversaw an annual budget of $2 million, allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the congregation and then covered up his illegal transfers, according to Beth El's president Sonia Israel.

When confronted with evidence of his alleged theft, which was uncovered a month-and-a-half after he left Beth El, "Eric confessed to violating our trust," Israel wrote in a letter Beth El's members. "He admitted that the deceptive record keeping and illegal transfer of funds was intentional. He then apologized and did not deny any of the accusations."

On Levine's 'LinkedIn' page, he boasts that during his tenure as Beth El's executive director, he "successfully navigated (the) organization's finances through one of the worst economic disaster(s) in U.S. history with 6 years of balanced budgets ($2,000,000 annual budget) and modest surpluses each year."

Last December, Levine left San Diego to take a new job as executive director of another congregation in the Washington D.C. area. In a letter to its members, his new employer, Adas Israel Congregation, had initially welcomed Levine, who's earned an MBA, as a "brilliant, seasoned" professional, as well as "a wonderful mensch all around."

Less than two months on the job, though, in light of these current allegations, Levine was asked last week to hand in his resignation.

In the meantime, Beth El's spiritual leader is asking how his community will recover from this alleged betrayal, stating in a letter to congregants, "We made serious mistakes in trusting Eric. We were victimized by a skilled liar. We will carry the brokenness with us for a long time."

CBS News 8 reached out to Eric Levine for comment. Reached at their home in Bethesda, Maryland, his wife said that they "have no statement at this time."

Beth El's leaders said they are now consulting with legal and accounting experts, in order to "determine how we will proceed with the authorities and the steps we will take to recover as much of the misappropriated funds from Eric as we can."

The congregation has also scheduled a special town hall meeting on February 26 at 7pm, to answer members' questions

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