Director of Chabad at UCSD Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges

The director of Chabad at UC San Diego, a Jewish Student Center, pled guilty to wire fraud charges on Jan. 26. Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj admitted to conspiring with Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, former director of Chabad at Poway, in a wire fraud scheme. 

According to a press release, the scheme exploited a corporate matching program by Qualcomm, where the company would match donations made by conspirators to Goldstien’s charity, Friendship Circle.

“The defendant abused his status and connections to help facilitate a years-long fraud scheme,” FBI Special Agent Suzanne Turner said in a press release by the United States Attorney’s Office of California’s Southern District, which is currently prosecuting the case. 

“Shortly after the donor wrote the check, Hadjadj returned all or most of the donation in cash,” the statement continued. “The donors would […] request that Qualcomm match the sham donation. After Qualcomm matched the sham donations to Friendship Circle, Rabbi Goldstein funneled […] two- thirds of the matched funds back to Hadjadj, keeping one third for himself.”

Hadjadj helped operate the scheme between 2010 and 2017, according to the official plea agreement. During this time period Hadjadj recruited up to three donors and used the cash from the scheme to help fund Chabad at UCSD. 

“To conceal the true recipient of the matched funds, Hadjadj told the donors to write checks to Friendship Circle […]  Hadjadj fraudulently obtained approximately $40,000 for Chabad at UCSD over the course of the scheme,” the press release continued.

When contacted by The UCSD Guardian for further comment, an official representative from the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered no further information outside of the public record.

Chabad at UCSD has operated since 1993 as a Jewish campus organization that “provides an exciting variety of social, educational, and cultural programming for students.” The organization is affiliated with the greater Chabad, an international Hasidic Jewish religious movement, but establishes itself as open to Jewish students of all affiliations. 

According to Assistant Director of University Communications Erika Johnson, Chabad at UCSD is not currently registered with the Center for Student Involvement. 

“Many of our spiritual groups have a community advisor affiliated with an off-campus organization or congregation; however, […] Hadjadj is not currently listed as the student organization’s community advisor,” Johnson said. “[Chabad at UCSD] has not hosted any Center for Student Involvement-approved events on campus since Fall of 2018.”

“We are not aware of the relationship between Rabbi Yehuda Hadjadj and the organization and we do not know the impact on the future operations of the organization,” Johnson continued.

Chabad at UCSD did not reply when reached for comment. As of the time this article was written, no one else involved with Chabad at UCSD is believed to be connected to the scheme. Hadjadj is awaiting sentencing and will be arraigned on April 18, 2022.

Photo courtesy of Althea Tien for The UCSD Guardian.