The Washington Post website reports today (February 3, 2012) that an Orthodox rabbi and owner of a Jewish bookstore in Wheaton, Maryland, pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in New York to mail and wire fraud, as a result of making up dramatic stories of rescuing Torahs lost during the Holocaust, and selling them to believers for more than $862,000.
Rabbi Menachem Youlus, 50, had solicited donations to his nonprofit organization -- the Save a Torah Foundation -- by fabricating fantastic adventures of saving the sacred scrolls, and using the stories to inflate the value of old Torahs.
Youlus told Judge Colleen McMahon that "between 2004 and 2010, I falsely represented that I personally obtained vintage Torah scrolls from Europe and Israel," including sacred fragments in a metal box buried in Auschwitz. He admitted that he had never been to Europe and that he defrauded scores of victims, including private equity billionaire David Rubenstein.
Each of the two counts against Youlus carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Judge McMahon scheduled sentencing for June 21.