I am not quite sure why I have to write this letter, since I have contacted several news agencies about the fraud being perpetrated at Pesach programs seemingly on a yearly basis, yet no one thought it worthy of their coverage.
And so I will write it myself.
Down in Orlando, my family were victims of not one but two Passover program scams. Never one to go away for the holiday, my wife and I saved up this year to take our children to Orlando. Our program, called Pesach Family Reunion, officially closed down one month before the holiday yet all monies were cashed. We were out $6,500, a very small sum, and have not gotten our money back. Attempts to reach the proprietor are actually successful, as he gleefully boasts that he is “judgement free” since his LLC has filed for bankruptcy and he claims he stole no money at all—rather “had a business investment gone bad.” We only lost $6,500. Others who tried to sue were out $50,000 and more! The owner had the gall to tell us we are lucky. Thanks buddy, here’s another 1K for my good fortune!
Down the road, we encountered a different Pesach program this year. Our extended family of sisters- and brothers-in-law were there, and we went to visit during Chol Hamoed. We found it odd that quite a few members of the Orlando Police were there, not to mention the Sheriff himself. Tents were being deconstructed and eviction notices were being placed on people’s front doors. It seems that this isn’t the first time the organizer has pulled the stunt of not paying his vendors, so hundreds of others were now left to fend for themselves.
How do our rabbis and community leaders let these grand schemes continue? Why do our local newspapers not cover the stories and warn their readers? I have my theories.
As we’ve gone through the process of legal recourse to get our money back, we have had fascinating conversations with members of police fraud departments, who were never shocked or surprised. Pesach program fraud is part of their annual lexicon, it seems.
What a gross chillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s name. We are now involved with prosecutors and something called 2C theft reports. Alas, according to one experienced New Jersey prosecutor, this is pure theft in all its legal regal glory!
And so I have done the initial investigative reporting and provided what I hope is a public service to your readers who may not be aware of these horrific scams proliferating in our community. I certainly have learned my lesson and intend to return to my ritual and stay home and enjoy the friendly confines of my own seder table and living room.
But I am left to wonder…exactly who is watching the store? No Jewish news outlet that I contacted chose to take this seriously. One weekly paper ran one story about only one of these programs.
Robert and Susan Katz