Russian Immigrant Won’t Be Dancing Hava Nagila With Bizarre Defense At Trial

Russian immigrant and self-made millionaires won’t be singing and dancing to Hava Nagila anytime soon. Nataliya Dyakovskaya was sentenced to over a year in the slammer last week by collecting nearly $80,000 in illegal rent subsidies from the  New York City Housing Authority.  She received $400 in subsidies a month on her Lower East Side apartment since 1987 even as she purchased an Upper West Side condominium for $700,000 and two East Hampton properties totaling $1.4 million in the interim.

Dyakovskaya had agreed to serve more than a year behind bars in a plea deal with the federal government. Her attorney, Steven Kartagener made a bizarre claim using her Yiddish upbringing as a defense. According to the New York Post, Kartagener claimed, “(she) caught a big break after her lawyer blamed her “crazy” crime on a “shtetl mentality,” using the Yiddish word for the former Jewish villages of Eastern Europe.”

This, however, contradicts the communal spirit of a shtetl:

“The problems of those who need help are accepted as a responsibility both of the community and of the individual. They will be met either by the community acting as a group, or by the community acting through an individual who identifies the collective responsibility as his own… The rewards for benefaction are manifold and are to be reaped both in this life and in the life to come. On earth, the prestige value of good deeds is second only to that of learning. It is chiefly through the benefactions it makes possible that money can “buy” status and esteem.

However, Federal Prosecutor, Tatiana Martins was undeterred and unmoved.  She countered the argument by calling “Dyakovskaya’s 14-year scheme “really egregious,” noting that 163,000 families are on a waiting list for the kind of low-income apartment she had in the Vladeck Houses on the Lower East Side.”

Judge Alvin Hellerstein refused to give her strictly house arrest or any other punishment that would keep her doing time in jail saying,  “What she did was reprehensible.”

On top of the jail time, Hellerstein also gave Dyakovskaya three months of house arrest.


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