Where’s The Riots When You Need ‘Em?

I hate reading stories like this:

A real estate developer with close religious and social ties to the Lubavitcher Hasidim community managed to swindle 40 families out of their homes in what the Daily News describes as one of the biggest scams of the recent housing crisis.

Eliyahu Ezagui sold pre-construction homes to 40 different families in Crown Heights, and years after the buildings were in place and the families moved in, he took out mortgages on the condos and left the country. Both the names of the buildings and the addresses on Lefferts and East New York Ave. had religious significance, which apparently lulled the home buyers into a sense of trust and solidarity with Ezagui.

One husband and father of six said, “We trusted him, we thought we knew him, he told us he had the blessing of the grand rabbi. We had contracts, so we gave him the money.” But they never got the deeds, which is how Ezagui could take out $15 million in mortgages on the homes.

Mortgage payments weren’t made, so now the families face eviction from the banks Ezagui borrowed from. And Ezagui, who fled to Israel, is shedding crocodile tears over the mess he’s created for people who trusted him. “I was stuck and it hurts and I feel sorry for those people.”

From Gothamist.

Where’s those chassidim who burn dumpsters when there’s something righteous to riot about? Being in Israel there’s little legal recourse these families have, but there’s still the good old fashioned recourse of physical violence. Something I don’t advocate unless necessary, and how is this not necessary? Presumably, the bulk of that $15 million he took in mortgages still exists in his various accounts. Then again, he said he was stuck. Maybe he run up several million in gambling debts and it is truly gone? Either way, his name is published and he now lives in Israel. That’s a start to finding the mamzer.

Tip of the hat to Chaptzem.

Update from New York Daily News with many more details:

More than 40 Brooklyn families face eviction and foreclosure on condos they bought from a developer who pulled off a massive swindle and then fled the country.

The families, all Hasidim from Crown Heights, paid developer Eliyahu Ezagui – one of their own – for the apartments before they were built at two sites: 770 Lefferts Ave. and 613 East New York Ave.

“We trusted him, we thought we knew him, he told us he had the blessing of the grand rabbi. We had contracts, so we gave him the money,” said Jeff Minsky, who lives at 613 with his wife and six children.

Ezagui, 47, did not give the buyers deeds when construction was completed in what is the single biggest local case of subprime mortgage fraud on record.

Instead, Ezagui deeded 64 apartments to himself, his father, his mother, his wife and two business associates.

Ezagui portrayed himself as a devout man and played on the religious sensitivities of the apartment purchasers, all members of the Lubavitcher Hasidim.

For example, the late Lubavitcher leader, Grand Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, is thought by many followers to be the Messiah. Ezagui named his building’s corporation Chaisom Inc. Chaisom, which means “live here,” is also Mosiach – Hebrew for Messiah – spelled backward.

And the addresses he chose, 770 and 613, have religious significance: 770 Eastern Parkway is Lubavitcher world headquarters; 613 is the number of laws God gave Moses.

the apartment buyers learned Ezagui had a life outside Crown Heights. He owned a house in Miami, where his wife and children lived, and was chief executive of 12 corporations, records show.

“He was living the Hollywood life down there when he wasn’t here – big car, fancy clothes, the works,” Minsky said.

I recommend you read the whole story, but I posted the important bits.

—————————

Second update. Unrelated to the current story, but read this! Apparently one of his companies was called ‘Hip Hop City Corp’. Doesn’t get more chassidish than that, does it? For those unwilling to read through a badly formatted federal document, back in 2003 the FCC fined him $10,000 for apparantly running (or simply allowing) a pirate radio station from one of his properties.

The rightous Mr Ezagui also made this video extolling the virtues of the Rebbe. Significant only because it confirms he did have a house in Florida as well, as he mentions his location below the video.

And further research has dug up the actual forclosure document. The bank involved is Washington Mutal. You can read it here. Co-defentants are 10 unnamed people, Rami Zion, Tova Eilenberg and Freha Ezagui.

4 Responses to “Where’s The Riots When You Need ‘Em?”

  1. […] Where’s The Riots When You Need ‘Em? Both the names of the buildings and the addresses on Lefferts and East New York Ave. had religious significance, which apparently lulled the home buyers into a sense of trust and solidarity with Ezagui. … […]

  2. Stories like this are just embarrassing.

    If anyone were to track him down, it’ll be by word of mouth. There’s no chance the story’ll make it into the frum newspapers (i.e. yated or hamodia).

    And what’s with the running away to Israel bit to elude the authorities? I think I read in some article by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz that there is a known child molester who fled NY (I think Williamsburg) and who is living quite comfortably in Bayit Vegan and IIRC has a new congregation there.

    If there is any bright side I guess it would be that there are few enough stories like these that the ones that come out are so shocking and take us by surprise?

  3. It should be “Were are the riots?” not “Where’s the riots?” Riots is plural

  4. Hopefully this won’t affect me getting that Peabody.

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