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Shidduch Fraud Follow-Up

17

By Larry Gordon

In response to last week’s article (“Heard In The Bagel Store: Shidduch Fraud”), a reader wrote, “Thanks so much for admitting that you, too, are capable of falling for the promises of a con man. It takes courage to be so honest.”

That’s true. But on the other hand, it is easy to be honest about crooked people. While the reaction and my research has shown a more than 20-year track record of lies, fraud, and deception by Yechiel Pearlstein, the folks who have written and the several who called are comforted somewhat in the realization that they were not the only ones taken in by this individual.

Comments on last week’s post can be found here. Many of the e-mails and letters focused on the question of why I, or anyone else for that matter, would give money to an unknown person who saunters into our homes or offices unannounced with what we now realize is a too good to be true story, buy into it, and assign a serious monetary value to the claim.

People also asked this question: Why give money to any of these people to daven for you when we each have our own direct line to Hashem and are certainly well-versed in how to beseech the One Above for our needs in this and other areas of life?

I don’t believe giving tzedakah diminishes our deeply rooted and implicit faith in G-d at all. This man did not enter our homes and offices and tell us that he was there to replace G-d in any manner. What he did do was persuade us that we were allowing him, through these donations, to help people in Israel — especially those with meager incomes and big families — who are making weddings for their children. That comes under the heading of “good works” and is no doubt looked upon favorably, we are taught, from Above. In other words, it cannot hurt the process if you have children here who need shidduchim, and while you are pursuing that objective you are assisting people in Eretz Yisrael who are at similar stations in life to yours here.

Yechiel Michel Zev Perlstein

So it was not belief in this man; rather, I think, we saw him as a facilitator. And either we deluded ourselves or he was running a great faith-based confidence scheme. My best guess is that it was a combination of the two.

Other people are indeed so deeply trusting of this guy that they wrote to ask if I had definitive proof that he is a thief and a scam artist. In response I have to share that a series of warnings have been posted about him in various neighborhoods of Jerusalem. It turns out that this Mr. Pearlstein has, on occasion, borrowed money on high interest and after a few payments borrowed higher sums, only to abscond with the funds. That’s one from our “nothing new under the sun” file.

There are also posters about him selling graves that do not exist to people in the U.S. and Israel, also a swindle that, shockingly, is not unheard of in our community.

And then there is this note posted online from Mark who says, “Sadly, I, too, have been a victim of Yechiel Pearlstein. Not as a z’chus for my children, but as an innocent person who simply tried to help him in his endeavors and gave him many thousands of dollars primarily in loans — only to discover later that it’s all fraud. If Yechiel visits your office, call the police immediately.”

Some of the other concerns that were voiced or written about in online posts were that because of this devious and dishonest person, others who are good and upstanding will suffer unnecessarily. That reference brought to the fore the issue of the people who canvass offices during the day and ring doorbells at night looking for donations for various things, the details of which we do not even coherently pay attention to.

Many of us can write lengthy dissertations about people we have encountered over the years at our offices or residential front doors, seeking a check for this, that, or the other thing. Most will tell you that it is a matter of small money, and if these individuals place themselves in what many consider, frankly, a humiliating position, then it is probably OK to give them a few dollars whether or not they are truthfully representing where the money is going.

The only thing wrong with that kind of attitude and practice is that it perhaps facilitates even greater bogus representations as time goes by. The bottom line is that many of the people who travel here on a regular basis have placed themselves — or we have allowed them to place themselves — in a position where they expect, as a matter of entitlement, regular donations for no reason other than that they have received funds from us in the past.

Here’s an interesting experiment you may have tried in the past. Try to give $100, let’s say, to someone to whom you gave $250 on his previous visit. You will see that more often than not he will vehemently reject it and resort to treating you as if you have cheated him, or, even better, that for some reason you owe him or he deserves the money. But that dynamic is a discussion for another day.

The fascinating thing about this fellow Pearlstein is that his demand for an unusually large sum in some odd way actually gives his mission extra credibility, unlike the person walking in and looking for $100. A man whom you never met walks into your office, knows personal things about you and your family (which he often did), asks for thousands of dollars, and we reflexively think to ourselves, “Wow, this guy is either completely nuts or he actually has something there.”

Someone wrote a note to Matzav.com about the article that said, “You should probably post a picture of this character. He will just resurface under another name.” The fact is that in the 5 Towns Jewish Times and on our website, 5TJT.com, we did post a large photo of him. I do not know why Matzav or Arutz Sheva, two news websites that ran the piece, did not run his photo along with the story. At first I was struck that perhaps they did not mind cooperating in bringing this matter to the public at large but then thought that maybe running a photo might be a matter of mercilessly outing him in the extreme. Or was it a matter of space, because who would not want to help future victims from being duped?

According to some people who are in contact with Mr. Pearlstein, who does not know they are wise to his game, he says that he is scheduled to return to Israel next week where he is known to many as a thief, though he still seems to be functioning at his craft — that is, ripping people off.

Just a couple of days ago, a young man pulled me aside to say that he was introduced to Mr. Pearlstein by the rabbi of his shul. The rabbi had met with Pearlstein in the past, spoke on the phone to someone who said he was a known leading personality in Israel, and, based on that conversation, the rabbi agreed to introduce him to members of his congregation. The person I met this week said that he showed the article in last week’s 5TJT to the rabbi, who was stunned by what he read.

Has Pearlstein been ruined by the dissemination of this information? Will he be unable to continue doing what he does? As one of the letter writers said, he can easily resurface using another name. It has occurred to me that it is possible Yechiel Pearlstein is not even his real name. While we know a great deal more this week about this guy than we knew two weeks ago, it looks like there is still more to be learned about him and the damage he has caused to innocent, trusting, and unassuming people.

5TJT

{Matzav.com}

17 COMMENTS

  1. can anyone prove that any of the money is going to “needy” families and children in Israel, or is it all going to his pockets? what does he do with so much money?

  2. His real name is definitely Yechiel Perlstein.
    After suspecting that he is a fraud for various reasons, I investigated through friends of mine who know him from Meah Shearim – his nickname is “Chillik” and his last name is Pearlstein.
    As soon as I mentioned his name to one of my friends, he rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t know what he’s doing, but I do know that there’s no way that Chillik Pearlstein is doing anything that is glatt or kosher.”
    The next person I spoke to said that he has known that Pearlstein is a crook for many years and that in his neighborhood it is no secret, but he’s a smooth talker and preys on innocent Americans.
    He is most definitely a crook. When I suggested that you call the police, I meant it seriously. I would go one step further and request that anyone who can, should turn him into the State Dept to ensure that he cannot receive a visa to the US again. That is the only thing that will stop him.

  3. the bottom line is that frauds like him ruin it for the good guys the melamed from yerushalayim that works and tutors and bakes matzhos and does what he can but is making a wedding and just has zero
    these frauds take away your appetitie to help
    bottom line investigate and use your smell test

  4. Bottom line: The propaganda put out by charlatans that there is an “Age-Gap” crisis, is a lot worse than anything anyone allegedly did.

    • Dear Libby, not friendly with arithmetic much, are you? Thanks for the artificially created age gap in the US yeshivish community(hello Lakewood!), there are more girls than boys in the shiduch market. In the next years the left over girls are not dated by the new batch regular boys, as the boys have a new batch of girls to date. Hence, the perfectly good girls, who just happened to be left over in a few years of dating due to a simple mathematical impossibility of a lesser number of boys monogamously marrying a larger number of girls, are treated as a damaged merchandise, and are forced to either marry divorcees and other nebach cases or stay unmarried altogether. To remedy the situation, we should either go back to polygamy or let the yeshiva bochurim get married at the age of 19 – 20. The latter seems to be less controversial, though chereim Rabeinu Gershom has already expired. Stating that H is setting up the shiduchim, and therefore we should not address this artificially created age gap, is completely immoral, such as refusing a piece of bread to a starving person since H is taking care of him.

      • Boys getting married at the immature age of 19 is not going to change the fact that there are more girls than boys. If there are really more girls than boys then girls will have to settle for losers (your terminology) regardless of what age the boys get married. Unless you’re trying to say, that the immature 19 years old boys should marry the “good” girls fast and let the loser girls go by the wayside. Who determines who from the overstock of girls, goes first?
        You’re analogy of a hungry person needing a piece of bread is asinine.

        • Dear Kool Aid, if you were a person who expresses an opinion only when being informed, you would have realized that there is a statistically equal amount of boys and girls born each year, but in our growing population(kein irbu) there is about 20% growth in babies born now from babies born five years ago. The idiotic insistence on setting up shiduchim with boys being 5 years older than girls, assures the roughly 20% more girls in the shiduchim market. The shiduch crisis is completely man made; groups that marry the same age, such as chasidim, don’t have this epidemic of unmarried girls. If you can’t grasp this simple math, then perhaps you shouldn’t be discussing the subject matter.

  5. so basically the chafetz chaim says that unless you have proof that a man is a thief, you may not cease your usual donations even if there are many terrible rumors, you are considered a Gozel Aniyim if you do. So far no proof was said on this page so its pretty clear cut, unless there is absolute proof that he is a thief this is nothing more than motzei shem ra. He should be brought to a beis din.
    I only read this article not the prev, so if theres proof there then fine (although how a news piece is proof i have no idea, go follow through yourself), thats the way it is ppl, you will not lose out by giving this man the pledge while there is no definite proof against him, even if he is a thief, Hashem takes stock and repays. but the other option, is only a loss…

    • Anon,

      Apparently reading is not your strong suit. Yechiel is a proven thief. There are far too many of us who’ve learned it the hard way. You of course are welcome to give him your hard-earned money if you’d like, but don’t spew foolishness on a serious matter.
      I learn hilchos Loshon Harrah every day – [do you ?] – and I have no problem stating that Yechiel Pearlstein is a thief and liar and must not be protected.

  6. Who are all the people that helped this crook prey on innocent yidden? How much of a cut did they get from it?
    How did he get personal information about people.
    The same people that aided & abetted this behavior will soon stage another tzedaka charlatan.
    They should also be exposed for enabling this person to rob people out of desperation for their children.
    I thank you for saving others from this treachery.
    Haimy.

  7. No reason to go to the police. Some dedicated askanim should do what has to be done to remove this crook from further ripping off yidden.

  8. Normal boys & girls who are not picky who have normal parents who are not picky, will be”h get married regardless of age. B”H the papers are flooded with engagement mazel tov’s everyday. All the wedding halls are jammed. Normal boys and girls ARE getting engaged and married. There is no crises. It’s the picky ones with their stupid selfish picky parents, that are struggling. It’s the KAVOD of the incompetent parents that destroy their childrens chances of getting engaged & married at a normal age.

  9. To Haimy:

    I believe there may have been some not necessarily unscrupolous, but nevertheless blameworthy individuals who helped him gain legitimacy.

    A relatively well-known Rebbe on 12th Ave. who is reputed to be a poyel yeshuos, (which he may very well be) whose name I obviously cannot mention, was given to me by this charlatan as a character reference.

    I actually went to him in person to hear what he has to say about him. He told me that this individual does very good things for the Klal, and is worthy of my support.

    Subsequently, I heard from YP that he had helped out this Rebbe in marrying off his children.

    Apparently he felt an indebtedness to him and recvomend him on that basis alone without really checking him out.

    כי השוחד יעור עיני חכמים ויסלף דברי צדיקים

    So when you get a reference from someone, no matter how חשוב, make sure not to be bashful. Look the person in the eye, and ask him if he himself was ever on the receiving end of his “good deeds” and know whether the tzadik himself is talking to you, or the money in his pocket is doing the talking.

  10. to i see-you-drank-kool-aid jun1 6 22

    so what years is one mature. for me too late .ah married at 18 1/2. bh over 7 child all bh married (bout samw age)B’H over 5 great grandchildren .non on welfare all yirei shomayin
    oh yes….shomrei torah with all trimmings(what your kind calls charedi fanatics
    are u married probably not…waiting to be mature, huh? and when is that going to happen. when will you decide to be mature? and if you are married what age did you decide that your mature.
    anyway for your mature mind let me tell you there are mature humans at 5,6 and there are non mature even 90…so latter should never marry?

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