Prosecutors in New Jersey have charged a 35-year-old Orthodox man, Eliyahu Weinstein, with targeting fellow Jews as far afield as California and Israel in a $200 million real-estate investment scam. Weinstein’s lawyers claim the charges are just sour grapes from disgruntled former partners, but the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that Weinstein may have had dealings with Solomon Dwek, the son of a prominent Syrian-Jewish family who last year turned state’s witness after pleading guilty to his own scam and informed on the Syrian community’s chief rabbi and more than two dozen elected officials in New Jersey.
But, whatever: Ponzi scheme, schmonzi scheme. The thing that caught our attention was this detail, from the U.S. Attorney’s office press release: “Weinstein used some of his victims’ investments to amass a substantial collection of art, jewelry and Judaica.” How substantial, you ask? Well, the IRS and FBI agents who swept into Weinstein’s peach two-story house in Lakewood, a heavily Orthodox suburb, seized $6.2 million worth of manuscripts and antique Judaica. Let’s see: That’s, like, enough for 38,750 of these Nambe hannukiahs, or 4,538 of these sterling silver washing cups (with tax). But perhaps Weinstein’s taste ran to loftier items, like this German gilt hanukkiah, cast in 1750, which Sotheby’s sold last year for $542,000, or these bound discourses on the Jewish religion, circa 1867, priced at a very reasonable $20-30,000.
Also seized? $7.2 million worth of clocks. Go figure.
Lakewood NJ Real Estate Developer Eliyahu Weinstein Arrested [Asbury Park Press]
Real Estate Scam Targeted Orthodox Jews, According to Prosecutors [WSJ]
Related: Crisis of Faith [Tablet Magazine]