New York Jewish students
New York City Rabbi Samuel Hiller has been sentenced to up to three years in prison for stealing $5 million from special needs students (file image) Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A New York rabbi has been given up to three years in prison for stealing millions in funding for disabled preschoolers.

Rabbi Samuel Hiller from Queens, New York City, stole $5m (£3.79m) from the Island Child Development Center (ICDC), which he used to be head of. The centre is one of the city's largest providers of resources for Orthodox Jewish three-to-five-year-olds with special needs.

Hiller was charged, along with three other members of staff at the centre, with siphoning off funds and using the money for their business interests and on home renovations, family celebrations and jewellery.

Staff member Ira Kurman allegedly gave more than $143,000 as loans to friends and family. Some of the money went towards his daughter's wedding and his son's Bar Mitzvah, according to the New York Post.

"The public funds provided to [ICDC] were earmarked for special needs preschoolers with disabilities but instead were allegedly used by the defendants for their own purposes," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

"These individuals allegedly stole millions of taxpayer dollars meant for special needs children in a brazen disregard for common decency and the law," said state controller Thomas DiNapoli.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Joseph Zayas sentenced Hiller to one to three years in state prison on Monday (16 October).