Rabbi used religion, emotion to steal $1.5 million

By Jodi Mohrmann, Managing editor of special projects, jmohrmann@wjxt.com
Published On: Nov 09 2013 08:40:24 AM EST
Updated On: Nov 09 2013 09:25:00 AM EST

In the Jewish religion, the Torah is a sacred document. But a rabbi played on the emotions of religious Jews to steal more than $1 million and shake their faith in those they believed they could trust.

Rabbi Manachem Youlus who called himself the "Jewish Indiana Jones" told dramatic tales of rescuing Holocaust-era Torahs.

"The Torah is something you can't even describe how importance it is, it is the essence of our existence really so for someone to do such a horrible thing and cause so many people such despair and it's unthinkable, especially in the name of religion," said one victim, who wants to remain anonymous.

But it all was fiction.  The victim is still embarrassed by the fact that the "restored" Torah scroll her family thought they were buying for their father was a total fake.

"First, it was disbelief and shock. So to think this rabbi would do such a thing is unthinkable. Unthinkable. To tell my father would absolutely crush him," the victim said.

"Postal inspectors found out through research and historical facts, where Rabbi said he found these Torahs it couldn't have been based on his travels," explained Donna Harris with the US Postal Inspection Service.

Youlus sold the so-called historical Torahs for thousands of dollars to people who believed they were buying history.

"Rabbi Youllas had Torahs but they weren't rescued from the Holocaust, from concentration camps they were Torahs he purchased from Torah dealers here in the US," said Harris.

Total losses to consumers: $1.5 million.  Youlus spent some of the money in personal accounts and on private school tuition for his children. But more importantly, he stole the trust of his victims.

"It was truly a roller coaster of emotion, from the time we first came across this organization, to the time we gave him the gift it was such a high, to when we found out this was a fraud, which was the depths of despair and then had to go tell him… it really put a cloud over his 75th birthday," the victim said.

Rabbi Youlus was ultimately found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison. At his sentencing youlus apologized and said he regretted his conduct.

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