001: Menachem Youlus - The Jewish Indiana Jones

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[SOURCE] Wikipedia.

Menachem Youlus is a Baltimore rabbi and Torah scribe who falsely claimed he had rescued Holocaust-era Torah scrolls from Eastern Europe, selling the scrolls at inflated prices. On August 24, 2011 he was arrested on charges of mail fraud and wire fraud, and on February 2, 2012 he pleaded guilty.

False Claims: Youlus claimed he had personally traveled to Eastern Europe and beyond to recover Torah scrolls lost or hidden during the Holocaust, including some from the sites of concentration camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. He said that during his travels he had been beaten and imprisoned, and called himself the “Jewish Indiana Jones” during a Torah dedication in 2004. In court he admitted that from 2004 to 2010 he had made up the stories of his travels; he had never been to the places he had claimed. The Torahs he sold did not have the claimed provenance.

Complaint: Youlus was arrested in Manhattan on fraud charges on August 24, 2011, for claiming to have toured Europe in search of lost or hidden Torah scrolls – the holy Jewish texts containing Hebrew scripture. He distributed the scrolls among American synagogues and communities, sometimes at inflated rates, and diverted almost one third of $1.2 million into his accounts for personal use.

Youlus embezzled more than a million dollars from “Save a Torah”. He got that money transferred to a Jewish bookstore, owned by him in Wheaton, Maryland, on a pretext of payment for restoring old and damaged scrolls. He was charged for writing $344,000 in checks to himself from the bookstore account, $200,000 in personal expenses, and for using $90,000 to pay private school tuition fee for his kith and kin. He was also charged for donors’ $145,000 amount meant for saving a Torah; instead, been diverted to his personal bank account.

Confession: Youlus offered this confession on Feb 2, 2012, to Manhattan Federal District Court judge Colleen McMahon:1

“Between 2004 and 2010, I falsely represented that I had personally obtained vintage Torah scrolls — in particular ways, in particular locations — in Europe and Israel. I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct.”

He also pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud, admitting that he had used the United States Postal Service and email to further a scheme to solicit donations and siphon money claiming for restoration and preservation of Torah scrolls.

Plea Deal: As part of his plea agreement, he will repay his victims $1.2 million. Youlus was free on $100,000 bond until he was sentenced on October 10, 2012, by Judge Colleen McMahon to just over four years in prison. Inmate number 65614-054 was released from federal prison on August 26, 2016.

By Donna Harris 08/26/2019 01:13 PM

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