Eliyahu Ezagui, Hasidic Scam Artist, Doesn't Get Jury's Blessing

A jury found Brooklyn developer Eliyahu Ezagui guilty Tuesday of scamming his fellow Hasidic Jews out of $18 million in a subprime-mortgage scheme.

Ezagui had insisted that Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson had given him a "blessing" to build affordable housing in Crown Heights. Schneerson couldn't be reached for comment — the Rebbe died in 1994, but many of his followers believe he's the Jewish Messiah, "the most phenomenal Jewish personality of modern times," and is in fact either still alive or can speak to them from the grave, or both.

Ezagui's fraud was quite simple: He sold his fellow congregants condos, but he didn't give them the deeds; instead, he gave the deeds to family members, including his wife and parents. It was the biggest local case of subprime mortgage fraud, as the Daily News has reported. Ezagui faces several years in prison when sentenced. When his scheme started unraveling, he hightailed it to Israel but eventually came back and was arrested.

After the verdict in the federal court case (which was spurred by a Daily News probe two years ago that resulted in a 2009 indictment), a lawyer for some of the victims was quoted as saying that "Mr. Ezagui apparently got himself in so deep, he stopped being honest." It's not known when Ezagui had started being honest.


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