Cantor pleads guilty to tax evasion, fraud; Beth Jacob employee could receive 5-year term


The cantor for an Upper Park Heights synagogue could receive a five-year prison term and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced for income tax evasion and insurance fraud.

Benzion Weiss, 44, who has been the cantor at Beth Jacob Congregation for more than 15 years, pleaded guilty on Tuesday before U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake to one count of tax evasion and one count of mail fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 6.

In a hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Weiss admitted not paying taxes in 1984 and submitting a false insurance claim in May 1997 to CNA Insurance Cos.

He also admitted overstating the amount he received in a housing allowance, or parsonage, from Beth Jacob Congregation. He acknowledged receiving $19,816 in unreported income in 1984. In addition, he admitted receiving $46,402 in income that was falsely classified as "parsonage" between 1993 and 1996.

On the fraud count, Weiss admitted mailing a false claim to the CNA Insurance Cos. of Glens Falls, New York, in May 1997. In that claim, Weiss said that jewelry, wigs and a religious item had been stolen from his car while it was parked in Brooklyn, N.Y. In fact, only a car telephone was taken.

Weiss admitted making false statements to his insurance company and police. The false claim, which CNA discovered and refused to pay, was for about $60,000.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. attorney's office working with the Insurance Crime Task Force, U.S. Postal Inspectors and the Internal Revenue Criminal Investigation Division.

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