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The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:31 pm
by fortinbras
This Barringer decision, evidently because signed by the clerk and not by the judges, does not appear in either LEXIS or WestLaw.

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On an unrelated case, I would be Very appreciative if someone could download for me the recent federal indictment in NYC of Rabbi Menachem Youlus, as reported in ...

http://thejewishchronicle.net/view/full_story/15436150/article-Youlus-indicted-faces-charges-of-mail--wire-fraud?instance=lead_story_left_column

.... I know this man and I would never have believed these accusations.

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2011 5:21 pm
by wserra
fortinbras wrote:On an unrelated case, I would be Very appreciative if someone could download for me the recent federal indictment in NYC of Rabbi Menachem Youlus


It appears as though there is as yet no indictment, at least no unsealed indictment. There is, however, a complaint. It's 21 pages, with pages 3 and 4 reversed. Such a complaint.

I know this man and I would never have believed these accusations.


He was quiet. Kept to himself a lot. At least when he wasn't being beaten up, thrown in jail, and going $175,000 into debt to bring these holy scrolls out of less-than-friendly places, back to safety and a new life. (For those who are not familiar with the story, that last sentence is Youlus' own description of his activities. He called himself "the Jewish Indiana Jones". If you believe the govt, he's closer to Barry Minkow.)

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:31 am
by fortinbras
I am Very Grateful for the pdf.

For those of you who are curious about the Menachem Youlus case: This is a young man (I would guess late 30s), a rabbi with considerable scholarly education (but not running a synagogue) who runs the principal Judaica bookstore in the Washington DC area. He has an encyclopedic grasp of just about anything Jewish. His particular specialty is restoring old Torah scrolls and making them available to synagogues {for the Yiddish-impaired, these are scrolls, superficially all alike, hand-written on genuine animal skin - producing one requires a highly trained scribe, very specific and costly materials, and about a year's work, with the result that a new finished scroll sells for a year's salary, usually more than $50K, and every synagogues is supposed to have at least a few such scrolls}. He has brought back a great many scrolls which had been in synagogues destroyed or abandoned during the Holocaust. He makes repairs to these scrolls and finds new homes for them. It appears that, in obtaining supporters for this worthy effort, Youlus might have spun a few yarns about the extraordinary ways some of these scrolls were found/hidden/rescued. The Torah scrolls are real enough, he seems to be accused of having jazzed up the background stories for some of them (which, I concede, could have inflated their resale value). [In an analogy, I recall a NYC antiques dealer who, in selling genuine antique furniture, would jazz up their backstories - e.g. that the scratches on a foyer table were the marks left by a young spoiled duchess who would use her riding crop on the table whenever her husband made her wait to go fox hunting.]

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 1:06 am
by wserra
It was actually quite a bit more than that. Youlus' "yarns" were actually made up out of whole cloth. In particular, he claimed to have personally made herculean efforts to successfully recover Torahs from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belson concentration camps, at times when he could not have been there and from places which did not exist. These aren't "yarns"; it is fraud.

Youlus' organization - "Save a Torah" - was a 501(c)(3). A number of wealthy donors made substantial contributions to it. Youlus swore over and over (including in filed 990s) that none of the money went to him. In fact, it appears that a lot of the money went to him, based largely on forged and otherwise fraudulent invoices. Moreover, Youlus didn't use those substantial amounts for finding Torahs; he used it for personal expenses and personal investments.

fortinbras, over the years you've seen a lot of these detailed complaints. I understand that you know Youlus. But he's in a lot of trouble, because it certainly looks like he did what he's charged with doing.

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:05 am
by grixit
Now there's a talmudic question: is a handwritten Torah produced with deceitful intent as worthy of use as one produced with honorable intent?

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:04 am
by The Observer
So I am guessing that there isn't a way to redeem lawful Torahs?

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:05 am
by fortinbras
The Torahs were originally produced with all the proper intentions, and have been repaired by a number of craftsmen with the proper intent. I don't think puffing their provenance has any effect on their validity.
And, yes, there are a variety of people and organizations dealing in secondhand Torahs, including those rescued from the Holocaust. The US Army itself brought over hundreds after WW2, and these were eventually distributed to a great many new synagogues.

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:21 pm
by wserra
fortinbras wrote:The Torahs were originally produced with all the proper intentions, and have been repaired by a number of craftsmen with the proper intent. I don't think puffing their provenance has any effect on their validity.


No effect on "validity"? Maybe not. One Torah, properly made, is as "valid" as another. No effect on value? Of course it did. A Torah rescued from an entrance to Hell like Auschwitz or Bergen-Belson commands a large premium over one that has resided its whole life in a suburban shul. The last time we saw "puffing" like this, Andrew blew down south Florida.

And don't forget the 501(c)(3) fraud. The same "puffing" drew large contributions from wealthy donors to a "charity" which (at least according to the govt) Youlus used as his personal piggy bank.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:49 pm
by fortinbras
This is a very painful topic to someone who actually knows him (although not well), and finds him enormously likeable (he sold us our wedding rings). Assuming the truth of the govt's complaint, he had a secret side that was well hidden and evidently completely separated from his many virtues.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:48 pm
by Judge Roy Bean
We can only hope he wouldn't have turned out to be another Mark Hofmann. (Infamous forger of religious historical documents and currently in prison for murder.)

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:24 pm
by fortinbras
Mark Hofmann is the notorious Salt Lake City bomber who dealt in antique documents and, first, forged a document "The Oath of a Freeman", supposedly dating from the Mayflower colony (the Library of Congress has published a book on how this forgery was detected ... slowly), and then started selling supposed letters from the earliest Mormon pioneers that reflected very badly on Joseph Smith and Brigham Young - the Church HQ was energetically buying these from him at outrageous prices to try to keep a lid on the potential scandal. When questions were raised about the authenticity, he planted bombs to kill people who knew too much (one however blew up while he was planting it).

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/forensics/mormon_forgeries/index.html

Youlus is, thank God, not in that category, as his Torah scrolls were valid Torah scrolls, albeit with faked provenance.

Re: Barringer indefinitely suspended by 10th Circuit

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 9:38 pm
by AndyK
grixit wrote:Now there's a talmudic question: is a handwritten Torah produced with deceitful intent as worthy of use as one produced with honorable intent?


First, a Torah is always written by hand. There are a number of laws prescribing the exact ink, quill, parchment, etc to be used and the specific steps inj their preparation.

The scribe must go through ritual purification before he can begin his work and also (multiple times) at certain specific points in the creation.

A Torah produced in compliance with all of these rules is a Torah. Anything else is just a bunch of words on a sheep skin.

If the scribe follows all the rules, it is not possible to create one with deceitful intent. Some of the prayers and blessings which the scribe chants preclude that possibility.

However, there is nothing to prevent a merchant from buying a scroll, falsifying its pedigree, and reselling it.

If anyone is interested in viewing WWII-era Torahs, I suggest that they visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington. I also suggest that they prepare themselves for an extremely powerful emotional and religious (no matter what their choice is) experience.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:26 pm
by grixit
fortinbras wrote:This is a very painful topic to someone who actually knows him (although not well), and finds him enormously likeable (he sold us our wedding rings). Assuming the truth of the govt's complaint, he had a secret side that was well hidden and evidently completely separated from his many virtues.


Most people are enormously likeable to some, in fact i suspect most people are at least more likeable than not to most of the people they interact with.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:58 pm
by wserra
I'm not saying Youlus is one - so far, there's just a complaint, albeit a quite detailed one. But, as I've posted before, con men tend to be likable folks until you find the spoons missing. It's a lot easier to con someone who believes you're a good guy than someone who believes you're a jerk.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:02 am
by Judge Roy Bean
CaptainKickback wrote:Maybe its time to just Passover this subject.


[Sound of gavel]
You are hereby fined $5 Quatloos for violation of rule 30.2.5. (c) - attempt at miscombobulated punnery!
Pay the clerk on the way out.

8/24/2011 US Attorney Press Release in the case

Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 6:52 pm
by Rat River Trapper
Press release with additional details from August 24, 2011
http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/files/ ... int-pr.pdf

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:32 pm
by Pottapaug1938
Judge Roy Bean wrote:
CaptainKickback wrote:Maybe its time to just Passover this subject.


[Sound of gavel]
You are hereby fined $5 Quatloos for violation of rule 30.2.5. (c) - attempt at miscombobulated punnery!
Pay the clerk on the way out.


Can I be the one to Levy the fine?

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 6:31 pm
by wserra
There have been serial adjournments before the M-J, the latest to expire January 17. That's a sure a sign as it can be that the parties are in the process of working out a plea.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 8:42 pm
by fortinbras
I am very grateful for the update.

Re: The Jewish Indiana Jones (Menachem Youlus)

Posted: Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:15 pm
by wserra
The govt has filed an information, containing two fraud counts and a forfeiture count. The govt seeks to forfeit "at least $862,044.33", which it claims to the the amount of Youlus' fraud.

The significance of an information: per the Fifth Amendment, one has the right to be prosecuted on a federal felony (the frauds are felonies) by an indictment voted and filed by a grand jury. The only way the govt can proceed by information is if the defendant agrees. The typical (>95%) reason why a defendant would agree is that a plea deal is in the works. Every now and again, an information results from certain horsetrading over the charges, but that's unusual.

I know Youlus' counsel, Ben Brafman. He's one of the best, and a good guy to boot.