Friday, 7 September 2012

Youlus Sentencing Date Set: October 11th

The date of the sentencing of US dodgy-Torah salesman Rabbi Menachem Youlus has apparently been set for October 11th (Toby Tabachnick, 'Pittsburgh man a key witness in Youlus sentencing' Jewish Chronicle  30 Aug 2012).   
Last February, Youlus pleaded guilty to two counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with fabricating stories about rescuing Torahs that were purportedly lost during the Holocaust, then selling those Torahs for large sums of money.  His sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for June 21, but has been re-scheduled for October 11, 2012. Each of the two counts of fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, but sentencing guidelines recommend terms of 51 to 63 months. Youlus’ false Torah rescue accounts include the story of discovering two Torahs wrapped in Gestapo body bags in a mass grave on a pig farm in Kamenets-Podolsky, Ukraine. Youlus sold five Torahs purporting to be one of the two he allegedly found on that farm.
He also claimed to have gone metal detecting in the Jewish cemetery at Auschwitz and removed the scroll he found there from Poland. Not to mention accusing the US military of helping him smuggle another out of Iraq. Despite all that, the Jewish Chronicle states that:  
The U.S. Attorney’s office may be having a difficult time in gathering victim support for Youlus’ sentencing, according to Kushner, who said he was told that “at the hearing they would be inundated with letters attesting to Youlus' character and that this was merely a deviation. Also, a number of people who were defrauded by Youlus did not want to get involved in a court proceeding.” In fact, last February, the Washington Jewish Week reported that Youlus’ attorney, Benjamin Brafman, sent letters on behalf of his client to friends, co-workers, associates and any person who "Rabbi Youlus has helped, or impacted upon, over the years and who may be aware of acts of kindness on his part." The letters said that character references sent to Brafman’s law firm would then be turned over to the judge. [One person asked to testify, said] "I want to sit down with Rabbi Alex [Greenbaum] and make sure that from the broader Jewish viewpoint I’m doing the right thing”. 
One presumes he'd tell the truth, so the answer to that question seems pretty obvious. Fraud is fraud, no matter who does it. I'd say the reason some of these people do not want to go to court is that they are ashamed for getting involved in transactions which, had the items being sold been what Youlus said they were, would for the most part have been illicit.

Vignette: Laughing all the way to the bank

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