Monday, April 23, 2012

A Living Chilul HaShem

What a “great idea” Ben Herbst had! Befriend an elderly, frail and sickly Italian immigrant  next door neighbor by the name of Enrico Mancini. 

Mr. Mancini was somewhat estranged from his family and living alone. Apparently not being someone who would pass up a golden opportunity Ben Herbst was as nice to him as possible - eventually convincing Mr. Mancini to sell his house to him before he died. He not only did that but eventually forgave the entire amount owed for the house out of gratitude. It’s a win/win. The elderly neighbor gets his chicken soup every Friday night and you get his house for free after he dies. Which he did at age 98.

This is how it’s done by Jewish “geniuses” like Boro Park resident, Ben Herbst.  At least this is his version of the story. But there is another version of events. His claim to the property was contested by Mancini’s daughter in law, Serafina Mancini who at age 71 thought she had inherited the house and was about to move in.

Of course when she arrived, there was no house. Mr. Herbst had demolished it and started construction on an expansion of his own house. A quick check of the records showed that indeed the house was now in the name of Mr. Herbst’s son and daughter in law who lived with him.

Ms. Mancini’s lawyer, William Cahill, claimed that the documents were forged and  was going to prove it. But as explained in an article in the New York Observer, Mr. Herbst put a lien on the property claiming that he borrowed $500,000 against it. That made it difficult to wrest control from Mr. Herbst even if they could prove that documents had been forged.  

Which version is true? I don’t know but that does not take away from the Chilul HaShem that is caused by this fellow. He either stole the property or conned an innocent old man out of it. Why? Because of his own selfish interest. He wanted to expand his property. And except for the actual building costs - he found a way to do it for free.

Does the evidence point to fraud? The article points out how easy it is to forge documents like this and get away with it. It also noted that Mr. Herbst had spent some time in jail and shows some shady characters he has dealt with in the past - and the shady deals they both made. I would not put fraud past him.  Despite his vulgar accusation that it was “the other guy” who was the crook and not him.

How do I know he is observant? This article also reports that Mr. Herbst’s background is in “rabbinical courts”.  So at least he pretends to be.

Innocent or guilty in this case - it is people like Ben Herbst that give Judaism a bad name. Big time! Here is a Jew who walks around pretending to be religious Jew and yet becomes a con artist when it suits his purposes.

Had he been nice to that elderly neighbor and not capitalized on it for financial gain, he could have made an enormous Kiddush HaShem. Instead he chose to cleverly line his pockets - his image as a religious Jew be damned.

I don’t know Mr. Herbst.  May be this story is completely false and he is an innocent person here – both kind and caring. The article reports that he does have a company that helps people of all denomination and race restructure their loans. Maybe this is just a hatchet job by the media gone wild – twisting a story and maligning an innocent man for purposes of sensationalist journalism and increased circulation.  But I doubt it. Mr. Herbst apparently has a history of doing this kind of thing.

Ms. Mancini eventually won her case. She was awarded the property and a “$569,000 judgment against Mr. Herbst and his family earlier this year, almost seven years after the whole mess began. The Mancini home, or what’s left of it, was recently sold by Mrs. Mancini for $730,000.” So justice was served.

But even if Mr. Herbst’s version of events (as reported in the story) were completely true his behavior here his does not even come close to meeting the standards of decent behavior for a religious Jew or any Jew. It doesn’t even meet the standards of behavior for a decent human being. I am embarrassed and disgusted by it.