FBI arrest Orthodox 'fraudster'

By Paul Berger, August 19, 2010
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Weinstein: now in jail

Weinstein: now in jail

An American property developer who allegedly defrauded British Jews out of millions of pounds has been arrested by the FBI.

Eliyahu Weinstein, 35, lost a civil case earlier this month against London property tycoon Berish Berger, who had been swindled out of £23 million.

At least two members of Stamford Hill's Jewish community continue to pursue multi-million pound lawsuits against Weinstein in the US, following property deals that went sour.

Last week, FBI agents arrested Weinstein, who lives in the Orthodox enclave of Lakewood, New Jersey.

He is accused of defrauding a bank, and Jewish investors in the US and the UK, out of £130 million.

A document submitted to the court in New Jersey specifically mentions an English investor-"M F"-as being a victim.

Maurice Freund, of London, is currently suing Weinstein for £5 million.

Another Briton, Rabbi Moshe Meisels, is suing Weinstein for £16 million.

In a recorded telephone call entered as evidence in Meisels's civil case, quoted in the Asbury Park Press, the rabbi asked how Weinstein could be "so ruthless . . . to make me take loans on properties on my shul, my own house. Ninety per cent of my properties have been sold, foreclosed, OK.

"How can I have a drop heart [sympathy] for Eli to get away with it and go on with a normal life when he ruined my life, he ruined my wife's life and my children?"

American victims in New York, New Jersey, Florida and California are also pursuing lawsuits against Weinstein.

The US Attorney's Office says Weinstein gained victims' trust by using contacts within the tightly-knit Orthodox community - a method known as affinity fraud. He was often introduced or recommended by rabbis who vouched for his credibility.

Weinstein is currently in jail while bail conditions are discussed.

Meanwhile, the FBI is searching for Vladimir Siforov, 43, of New Jersey, who is also implicated in the scheme.

New Jersey's Orthodox community is no stranger to financial misdealing.

More than 40 people, including five rabbis, were arrested last year in a sting operation.

Solomon Dwek, a member of the local Syrian Jewish community, helped the FBI build evidence in the cases by wearing a wire. He had previously been caught by the FBI trying to defraud a bank of £32 million.

Rumours persist in Lakewood
that other Orthodox informants continue to wear wires in ongoing FBI investigations.

"If it's true, there could be a bunch more arrests to come," one source said.

    Last updated: 10:11am, August 20 2010