Sunday, August 10, 2014

Seminary Scandal: RICO claim - Yerachmiel Lopin of Frum Follies view & my rebuttal

The following is Yerachmiel Lopin (Frum Follies) explanation of why he finds the RICO charge plausible in this case. I offer my rebuttal to each of his points indicated by DT. Mr. Lopin has been the most active blogger dealing with this scandal and has been the source of many important leaks from the Chicago Beis Din and opponents of the Israeli Beis Din. We have been in contact for a  number of years and I generally agree with his analysis and concern for establishing the truth as well as his genuine concern for the victims of abuse. However in this case he is strongly opposed to the Israel Beis Din's (IBD) handling of this case. In contrast, while I initially shared his view - I now view that the IBD's position - while not without faults - is the most reasonable according to the facts as well as the halacha. I have been supplied by a number of documents from supporters of the IBD which clearly support their view and call into question the conduct of the CBD in this matter. 
Contrary to recent allegations of CBD and its associates - the IBD is not trying to make a coverup - nor is it trying to save the seminaries at the expense of the safety of the girls. In contrast I find the Chicago Beis Din's view as unacceptable both from the halachic point as well as the psychological dealing with abuse. Initially both the IBD and CBD agreed that the seminaries could be saved be made safe for students. Initially the CBD asked the IBD to handle the matter. Rav Aharaon Feldman was asked by the CBD to represent the victim and Rav Zev Cohen of the CBD attended the signing of the shtar berurrin which laid out the charter for the IBD. Then something happened which turned the CBD against the IBD and made them refuse to cooperate with dealing with these seminaries. That something has not been explicated so far.


 

Rabbi Eidensohn asked me if I find the RICO charge in the lawsuit even plausible. I wrote up a reply but when I got ready to paste it in I could not seem to find the question, so I am just pasting it in over here.

1. Meisels' recruitment was rife with fraud in representing his schools as safe and educating for Torah observance. Put differently, had Meisels told parents the truth of his conduct and they had nevertheless plunked down their money there would not have been fraud. But of course they wouldn't have bought in.
DT. To be a RICO claim a conspiracy must be present. There was clearly no conspiracy of the seminaries to defraud parents and it is clear the staff viewed that they had a good Torah program that was safe – and the seminaries in fact have had a good reputation up until now. Thus it is dangerous nonsense to claim that the staff was part of a conspiracy that was concerned only with defrauding parents and providing sexual excitement for Meisels. The Chicago Beis Din made no such claims – it is clearly made up by lawyers claiming that was the best way to get money back either by intimidation or by the unlikely possibility of actually convincing a secular court of the claims. The Chicago Beis Din clearly felt the seminaries could be fixed up and be safe – but not yet.
2. Meisels did in some cases use the recruitment process to begin his grooming. I have gotten three reports from very distinct sources of his behaving oddly with some exceptionally attractive potential students. It was so odd that the students commented that they did not understand why instead of raising reasonable questions at the interview he lavished flattery and talked about how they would have a very special relationship, (more than those of other students). Two of the three found it uncomfortable and opted out of going to his seminary even though he was more generous than he needed to be about scholarships. The third was subjected to an actual groping quite a while after she started in the seminary.
DT: This is again no proof for a conspiracy of the seminaries and their staff but entirely about Meisels and thus irrelevant to a RICO claim.
3. RICO requires one of several crimes in the conspiracy. In this case the alleged crime is fraud in securing parent's tuition money. I find that charge utterly credible. Rabbi Eidensohn, I suspect you might agree with my case thus far but you question why include the other defendants, Yarmish, Slanger and especially R. Gartner. I will turn to that shortly. 4. However, it needs to be understood that the fraud charge goes beyond the original recruitment. From the point of view of the lawsuit, the parents should have gotten their money back when they asked for it. They reason that the money never belonged to the seminaries since it was secured by fraudulent misrepresentation. A similar argument could be made in halacha that this was mekach taus. Thus the transaction is void. 5. Three days after the first Chicago ruling the IBD declared the schools were safe, the students couldn't switch to other seminaries and other seminaries could not go after those students. This now involved the IBD in the attempt to perpetuate the fraudulent retention of the parent's funds. The charge is not that the other three defendants were involved in a conspiracy to sexually abuse students. Instead it asserts, that they knew or should have known by now that Meisels was abusing students, and thus misrepresenting the offering, and thus that the families were defrauded when they signed up. On that basis the suit asserts that the other three defendants were helping to perpetuate the retention of fraudulently obtained deposits. And indeed, the IBD's goal, as you noted early on was to "save the schools" which meant retaining the students and their money by blocking them from getting money back or going to other schools. When Yarmish was said to be in control of the seminaries, as the successor, he became legally liable for settling outstanding claims, and became part of the fraud in refusing to return fraudulently obtained deposits. Mrs. Slanger as the front-line money person in the Lakewood office also became a party. If, Rabbi Gartner controls some of their accounts, he too becomes part of the fraud of not returning monies. It is alleged, that the three are playing a game of passing off parents to each other while not being clear about who has the power to authorize checks. That too would make them part of a conspiracy to deny parents refunds. The IBD has claimed to have control of monies so, in theory all three members are part of the fraud. The lawsuit name R. Gartner, because Yarmish identified him as holding the power to return deposits.
DT: Your description is not accurate. The students were not prevented from going to another seminary as is clearly stated in the 4 item in the IBD statement of July 25. The IBD only prohibited other seminaries from recruiting the students. Your assertion of a conspiracy is simply wrong. Contrary to what you assert there is no evidence that the schools knowingly recruited girls for Meisels sexual pleasure. The CBD made no such claims. It simply said "the Beis Din believes that the students in this seminaries are at risk of harm and it does not recommend that that prospective students attend these seminaries at the present time". According to your version of the facts it should have clearly said "It is prohibited to go to the schools and that they must be closed down as the evil permeates the whole fake structure of the schools!" But they made no such statement.
The job of the beis din was merely to establish that the seminaries are safe and a viable place for education. I just received an email from Rabbi Malinowitz which says that the IBD does not view its job as saving the seminaries. He wrote:
We, the BD here, do not consider it our mandate to work on making sure the seminaries stay open---- (the task of a BD) we must be very clear that they can stay open and they are safe,etc,etc,etc. To make sure they stay open despite the continued onslaught of rish'us is not our mandate.
Your description of the roles of Yarmish et al – do not show a conspiracy. But simply the reaction any business would do if the quality of their services or merchandise was questioned. Again it is clear if the seminaries have been declared safe but the parents don't accept that – a beis din must rule that the parents should get their money. No beis din was approached for a din Torah - but rather the parents went right to secular court. Unless the CBD gave them a heter it was clearly against halacha.
6. For purposes of this argument, it is irrelevant whether, as the IBD claims, the seminaries are now safe. Though I must add that the IBD is oddly inconsistent. The IBD promises to keep an eye out, conduct investigations, and make further changes. If all that is needed and has not been done, how can they certify the safety of the seminaries. Furthermore, why should anyone trust them to find flaws, when they went on the record saying they were good in the past, when they clearly felt that Meisels had to be out before they could say that for the future.
DT: The IBD spent considerable time questioning the staff. The beis din has considerable expertise in abuse cases and according to what they found – the seminaries are safe. They said that they are aware of the allegations by the CBD that senior staff was complicit – but did not find evidence for such. If the CBD wants the seminaries fixed then they should have shared their evidence.
By not sharing the evidence it is clear that the CBD nw wants the seminaries closed down. IBD thinks it is astonishing that the CBD will not share their evidence with them as they agreed to from the start when the CBD asked them to deal with this matter. The CBD took the initiative and their dayan Rav Zev Cohen and R' Gottesman were present with Rav Aharon Feldman when the shtar was drawn up defining their job. No one forced the CBD to pick Rav Shafran's beis din – especially as some bloggers claim that was to be expected that an Israeli beis din was concerned only with covering up abuse not stopping it.
It is absurd to say that the CBD – experienced in dealing with abuse – would pick a beis din that would not deal properly with the issues. It is also absurd that R' Gottesman – connected with Torah U'Mesora and the CBD allegedly demanded that the seminaries be sold to him or his friend Bloom or he would have the seminaries closed down. It is absurd that Rav Zev Cohen made the promise that if the IBD arranged the sale to Yarmish they would remove the warning. But the CBD did not follow through without giving an explanation of why or under what conditions they would view the seminaries as safe. Nor did they remove the warning when the sale was made to Yarmish. They clearly did hold out the possibility that they would declare the seminaries safe. So according to your inside understanding how could the CBD possibly allow the seminaries to continue to exist given this alleged conspiracy of the seminaries and the IBD to aid Meisels.
In sum, it is clear from the CBD's statements that they viewed the problem with the seminaries as fixable. That they viewed the IBD as the agent to fix them. That they asked the IBD to take the job and appointed Rav Aharon Feldman to represent the victims. But they issued a warning – "at this time" against going to the seminaries and they blocked funds for girls to go the seminaries and then they alleged that the IBD was involved in a cover up for a sale which they had approved. The CBD made accusation that senior staff was involved – but at the same time crippling the IBD in investigating these charges by suddenly refusing to share information.They made promises to remove the warning if the seminaries were sold to Yarmish and then reneged on the promise.
7. In sum, while I have no idea how the court will handle the RICO claim, I find a plausible argument that there was a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain students' enrollment deposits and deny them refunds.

DT: In sum – it is incredible that with your intelligence and inside knowledge of the facts that you can say with a straight face that it is plausible that there was a conspiracy to defraud the parents of deposit money. The more reasonable explanation that there is no conspiracy but there is a legitimate disagreement whether they are required to return the deposit since a competent beis din has found the schools to be safe. According to halacha a beis din is required to resolve that issue – not an absurd RICO claim in secular court.
PS. Above I presented the argument that the enrollment and payment of deposits was a mekach taus, and thus void to two rabbonim (one a dayan, and one lamdun who writes halacha articles). Both of them are completely unconnected to the Chicago Beis Din. While neither will take a definitive position without full access to the facts, both found the mekach taus argument sound and inclined toward it. Both also agreed that if it was a mekach taus, the students did not "belong to these seminaries" as customers and thus there is no basis for asserting hasugas gvul.
DT: I have no problem with a claim of mekach taus – but did your sources say such a claim is justification to go to secular court? Or did they say that the parents should therefore go to beis din? You obviously told them that the IBD had paskened that it is assur to go to another seminary when in fact the prohibition was for seminaries to actively recruit them. The issue is solely of whether the deposits must be returned – not whether the students are prohibited to go elsewhere because they "belong to these seminaries". Again all of this is not justification for a slanderous RICO claim when all that was necessary was to go to a din Torah to get the deposits back.

23 comments :

  1. Everyone is missing a fundamental issue: if the staff knew- shame on them. If they didn't know- why would you trust your kids to them in the future? A staff that cannot see something that is highly suspect until it blows up is not one that I want watching my kids.
    Either way, the staff were either accomplices or complicit. Whichever way you cut it, they need to go.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think that the seminaries and the IBD misshandled the communication situation big time. It might be that there was a problem determining who was allowed to make payments from the school funds (to refund the downpayment). However, they cannot just tell parents: go to x, he will give you the money, and x says, y will give you the money, y refers back to x. It is logical that parents in such a situation feel that they are not taken seriously, that IBD plays games with them.

    I suppose that the lawsuit is a consequence of this outrage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow!

    Amazing how you, an anonymous poster, is more knowledgeable and understanding than the IBD. In fact, you are more knowledgeable than the CBC. According to you, the CBC behaved like bafoons when they sent the case to the IBD. Amazing!

    However, without detailing what exactly the nature of the abuse was, and how many girls were actually involved, your comments are silly.

    If you know you're comments are silly - shame on you. If you don't know - why would we trust your comments?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Verification of AddressAugust 10, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    Well said !

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lets bring this case to a jury of run of the mill midwestern americams:

    A number of innocent 18 or so year olds, immature socially, are sent by their parents and their society to a year long wedding preparation course ( = sex trip) overseas, leaving their friends, staying in a sexual repressed dormitory, cannot meet other young gentlemen of their type, are attracted to a gentleman of a man, who listens to their problems, at 2am in the morning, takes them for ice cream (or was it pizza, i forget which), they seduce him / he seduces them, its consensual till after the fact (i. E., date rape at the most), where there are many cases of OTD, etc behavior, short term or long term, i could go on and on, but i guess you can guess how a.jury will feel.

    And you expect

    ReplyDelete
  6. To claim that "The students were not prevented from going to another seminary as is clearly stated in the 4 item in the IBD statement of July 25. The IBD only prohibited other seminaries from recruiting the students" does not seem true. Yes a technical legal reading of the psak would lead to that conclusion, but in practice no other seminaries will take these girls. We all know that when it comes to kol korei's etc. its not about the strict definition of the words but rather the conveyed intent. Did anyone think that the rabbonim said is was ok to own and read slifkins books as long as you didn't "bring them into your house"? Of course not. Let's be honest here.


    Yes i do think the RICO claim is wrong.


    I also understand exactly how desperate avg income parents can be talked into this in 3 seconds flat by their lawyers and thus I cannot blame them at all. Although I would like to think so, I do no know if I would have acted any differently had i been in their situation and it was my daughter.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Such a classic retort from the Meisels defenders. I have noticed that for quite some time, the pro-CBD crowd attacks mostly Meisels and the sems. Not true of the Meisels defenders, who instead attack the people who comment instead.

    Says a lot about you.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What do you mean go to a din Torah to get the deposits? Cbd already said they should get the deposits back. The problem is they can't enforce it...thus the need for the secular courts.

    Lopin is explaining how the rico claim is reasonable form the point of view of a plaintiff. Your acting as a judge. Your cannot expect a plaintiff to file a suit like a judge.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Backing him: th e IBD, the israeli seminary association (they'll have to create one, but no seminartwill oppose; they all want complete control of their activities, and immunity.), he bais yaskovs that are still sending students. (And are subject to lawsuits, do have yo protect themselves), a few expert witnesses like DT.

    Backing the plaintiffs: the CBD (a bunch of local yokel rabbis, with their own issues), touro (who cares, they prob won't testify anyway, why should they get involved), torah umesorah (a bunch of ny yokels, who have their own issues), a few expert witnesses who can't counter the sex trip claim.

    One group of rabbis vs another group of rabbis. Why should a jury get involved.

    The judge will prob dismiss on a pre answer motion.
    Poly prep was a secular high school. This is a religious post high school, for mature women.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There are no Meisels defenders thatI have heard of. Both the IBD and CBD said he is guilty. Please stick to the facts.

    ReplyDelete
  11. DT's main case in favor of the IBD is there being appointed by the CBD however there is no evidence supporting this appointment
    from the original CBD letter we see them saying the IBD is already dealing with the case seems they were told to back off by IBD whom someone else had already brought in to case if they were indeed appointed by CBD lets see some evidence

    ReplyDelete
  12. Of course they can enforce it. Its a simple arbitration enforcement case. Summary judgement and that's it. Will be resolved by Rosh hashana. No rico, no nothing.

    Problem is, the CBD has no shtar betururin. Thus no jurisdiction. No right to having taken on the case altogether. And no right to make any decision at all. No halachic right, no secular right. Can't speak for the other dayanim, but the CBD av bet din does this all the time inhis other bet din.

    ReplyDelete
  13. LOL

    I have noticed that for quite some time, the pro-CBD crowd attacks mostly Meisels and the sems.......

    Says a lot about you.




    Did you read your comment before clicking post??


    Instead of answering my questions for details you attack me! And part of your attack on me is that I attack those who comment instead of the info/misinformation. Hmmm.


    Please share precise info. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU SAYING?!?!

    FOR THE PAST THREE WEEKS THERE'S BEEN AN ARMY (probably family members) DEFENDING ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING MEISELS!!!!

    ON EVERY SITE!!!

    כי השוחד יעור עיני........!!!

    RDE, I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'VE GOTTEN SOOOOOOOOO BLINDED!?!?

    ReplyDelete
  15. See the other thread where the posters question his guilt. That's a fact. They are openly, on this blog, questioning his guilt. Those are Meisels defenders, and they're right here.

    ReplyDelete
  16. @Daas Torah Please read the comments on this blog, some made just a few hours ago. See the 'Fantastical RICO' post, and the comments made by a shlomo and a David. Meisels still has many defenders in the shadows; if you really believed that his guilt is a done deal, you would call such commenters out on their nonsense. It is your blog, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  17. A person can deplore sexual abuse and at the same time deplore corruption in a beis din. There is no contradiction, except perhaps for members of the "all-caps" brigade, who see everything in black and white.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Chicago is a beis din kavua and they had a shtar berurin from meisels who appeared before it and admitted some misconduct (though probably denied other stuff).

    ReplyDelete
  19. From a jury point of view, the Chicago rabbis can better present themselves to a secular jury than the Israeli rabbis. Moreover, the local yokel reference to Chicago's rabbonim is unustified. Frankly the question of relative lomdus is unwarranted. Rabbi Feldman may be the biggest talmid chacham or Malinowitz or R. Shafran. Gedalia Dov Schwartz is also major league though not haredi. however, every last one of the rabbonim on both sides are well above competent. The relative merits of the two courts are not a question of rabbinic competence. As I have said a number of times, jurisdiction is not decided by some lomdus pecking order. Once a competent beis din properly attains jurisdiction it cannot be seized away because some other BD has more lomdus. To use a traffic court analogy. If the governor of CA gets arrested in podunk Iowa, the local yokel judge has more jurisdiction than the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the US or the most brilliant law professor at Stanford, Yale or Harvard.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Rabbi Michael TzadokAugust 11, 2014 at 5:25 AM

    Chicago is a beis din kavua
    Says who? Poskim like Rav Moshe Feinstein have repeatedly written that there is no B"D Kavua in the United States.

    ReplyDelete
  21. They have no shtar beirurin signed by Meisels. If they did, they would have produced it by now.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Frankly I love this!!!

    For years I'm leaving comments here and there, and nobody bothers to respond....

    Comes along this Miesles scandal, and not one comment goes unanswered!!! On this blog it's SHAMEFULLY usually RDE himself these days.... (I know it's ALL CBD's fault, boy how you're letting us down....) But if not it's one if Meisels many boy cousins, using their wife's first name...

    And, as to the caps.... Your probably new on this site... And you don't realize how absurd, and frankly how disappointed us regulars are that RDE HIMSELF IS FALLING FOR THIS RED HERRING!!!

    ReplyDelete
  23. @welove - I detect a tone of jealously in your comment. In previous issues I never recevied a complaint from you t that I posted issues and comments that you sent me that you thought were important. - you considered that it showed I cared.

    Now that I am apply the same sense of justice and the same intellect to understand this case- you feel that my actions are shameful and that it shows as a minium a lack of intelligence.

    My concern and active involvement in answering comments is not because I am part of a coverup but in fact the reverse. It is clear that the coverup is going the other way. Aside from your gut reaction to automatically support the apparent victim - do you have any evidence that contradicts the documentation that I have been posting?

    Instead of assuming that I am a fool for not defending the "chamption of the victims" the CBD - please produce evidence which supports your view against mine.

    ReplyDelete

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED!
please use either your real name or a pseudonym.