NEW YORK (JTA) — Menachem Youlus, a rabbi who claimed that he rescued Torah scrolls lost during the Holocaust, was arrested on fraud charges and accused of fabricating the stories.
Youlus, the founder of Save a Torah, was arrested on Wednesday and charged with one count of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. Federal prosecuters also accused Youlus of embezzling money from his charity for personal use and making up his stories of rescuing Torahs seized by tte Nazis.
"Menachem Youlus called himself the ‘Jewish Indiana Jones,’ but his alleged exploits were no more real than those of the movie character he claimed to resemble," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s office said that Torah scrolls that Youlus claimed to have rescued had been purchased from local dealers and lacked any connection to the Holocaust. The office also said that during many of the years in which Youlus claimed to be personally rescuing Torahs overseas, the Maryland resident had not even traveled internationally. The statement said that Save a Torah had raised $1.2 million in contributions from 2004 to 2010.
Youlus gained public notoriety after a January 2010 Washington Post article raised doubts about the veracity of his claims.
"Menachem Youlus’ indictment is welcome news to all who are concerned with the integrity of Holocaust memory," said Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.
Youlus could not be reached by JTA for comment, and The Associated Press reported that it’s not clear who is representing him in court.