Saturday, February 04, 2012

Torah scroll fraudster

THIS IS SAD. And strange. And annoying.
'Jewish Indiana Jones' faces jail for $1m fraud after lying about daring trips to save ancient Torah scrolls
  • Claimed he was 'beaten up, thrown in jail, and [went] $175,000 into debt' to rescue relics
  • Said he found priceless scroll at Auschwitz using metal detector
By Rebecca Seales (Daily Mail)

Last updated at 2:14 PM on 3rd February 2012

A Jewish charity founder who claimed he travelled the world as a 'Jewish Indiana Jones' to rescue holy scrolls has admitted he was a $1 million fraudster.

Menachem Youlus told the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, New York he lied about making risky trips to obtain vintage Torah scrolls in Europe and Israel for six years.

The texts are sacred to the Jewish faith, and followers believe they contain the rules that God intended mankind to live by.

Among the fantastical tales Youlus invented were detailed accounts of recovering Torah lost or hidden during the Holocaust, including at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.

Youlus, 50, who owns the Jewish Bookstore in Wheaton, Maryland, allegedly boasted that he had been 'beaten up, thrown in jail, and gone $175,000 into debt, to bring these holy scrolls out of less-than-friendly places, back to safety and a new life.'

The court heard he had fabricated various exploits between 2004 and 2010 in order to obtain funds from his Save a Torah charity and some of its contributors.

'I know what I did was wrong, and I deeply regret my conduct,' Youlus said yesterday.
One of Mr. Youlus's supposed exploits, this one in Iraq, was noted in PaleoJudaica here and here. At the time I commented on what seemed like a difficulty in the story. I never received any clarification about that matter and in light of recent events, it may have been a significant point. Apparently he did have a Torah scroll, but one may wonder whether it really came from Iraq. The specific episode is not mentioned in the Daily Mail article.

UPDATE (7 February): More here.