SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 12, 2008

Lappin Foundation folds abruptly

SALEM — The Robert I. Lappin Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to strengthening Jewish culture, has ceased to exist after losing money in a multibillion-dollar Wall Street scandal.

The organization's five-member staff has been let go and all its programs abruptly discontinued. "It's very emotional," said a stunned director Deborah Coltin, explaining that this development came today without any warning.

"It's been a terrible day," added the charity's press spokeswoman Amy Powell. "We do unbelievable work and we touch so many lives and it's devastating to have to stop doing it."

The foundation and its driving force, Robert I. Lappin, 83, had been providing more than $1.5 million per year to various charities. The foundation listed more than $7 million in assets on a 2006 tax filing.

"It is with a heavy heart that I make this announcement," said a press release from Lappin. "The Foundations' programs have touched thousands of lives over many years in our efforts to help keep our children Jewish."

The statement revealed, briefly, that money necessary to fund its programs had been entrusted to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Madoff was arrested on Thursday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and any remaining investment funds frozen.

The government has alleged that Madoff told two employees that his company was "all just one big lie" and "basically a giant Ponzi scheme" with losses totalling $50 billion. (A Ponzi scheme involves paying out to the first investors money from later investors, while earning no real income.)

"The money needed to fund the programs of the Lappin Foundations is gone," said the charity's press release.

For more, please see Saturday's edition of The Salem News.

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