Otisville prison has a sizable population of Hasidic Jews. Many of these Hasids identify themselves as members of the “Satmar” sect. Most Satmars live in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. But there are many Satmars who left the community at various times in their lives. The Satmars have had many violent confrontations over the years with members of the Lubavitch sect. Some of the violence stemmed from Lubavitchers’ attempts to proselytize to Satmars and get them to join the Lubavitchers.
Otisville has its share of Satmars, ex-Satmars, Lubavitchers and ex-Lubavitchers. Locked up in the medium prison is Sholom Rubashkin, a Lubavitcher who got 27 years for bank fraud as head of the largest kosher meat slaughterhouse in the United States. Locked up with Rubashkin in the medium is Satmar Sholam Weiss, who was convicted of money laundering, racketeering, and fraud. He got 845 years, the longest sentence ever imposed on a white collar criminal. I never met Sholam or Sholom, but I heard that they don’t get along so well in the medium.
Most of the Satmars I encountered in the Otisville camp were locked up for fire insurance fraud. The crime is to burn down a warehouse or a building and then attempt to collect on the insurance policy. But the crime usually involves more than just setting a flame to a building. It also involves bribing insurance adjusters to prepare inflated damage reports, bribing suppliers to write false invoices for millions of dollars of property that was never burned up in the building, or even bribing fire marshals to write false reports. That’s exactly what Herman Jacobowitz tried to do. His father owned one of the largest cosmetics company in the New York area. Herman was raised Satmar but left the fold to join the Lubavitch sect. A traitor in Williamsburg. But he was not treated like a traitor. He is a wealthy man from a prominent Williamsburg Satmar family. Herman, along with his two brothers, burned down their warehouse and tried to collect $100 million in fire insurance money. They tried to bribe the fire marshal with $100,000.00. The scheme didn’t work and they all ended up getting heavy jail sentences. Herman is still locked up in Otisville. He runs the Jewish chapel, ie., the shul, with an iron fist. Don’t get in his way or he will run you over. I have never watched anyone pray the way he prays. He jumps up and down, screams,shakes, moans, groans, and waves his hand to the heavens. He makes a lot of noise. He gets into the “zone” when he prays. He has no idea where he is. He knocks over coffee cups. He bangs into people. For “M-Shu-lom”, as he likes to be called, praying is a full contact sport. He leaves piles of holy books on a table that he controls in the shul. The blueboyz are always scolding him to clean up his table. But for the most part they don’t give MShulom a hard time. As long as he kept the Jews under control in the shul, the blueboyz leave him alone. Sometimes the Head Blueboy in Charge (HBBIC), a guy by the name of Officer Scalboni, would reprimand Mshulom for the mess he leaves in the shul.
The other blueboyz have a nickname for the HBBIC. They call him “Scalbo-witz” because at times the religious Jews appeared to get special treatment in the camp. They say wearing a Jewish beanie protects you from getting thrown in the SHU (the “Hole”). SHU insurance. But when I was locked up one religious Jew got shipped out of the camp for smuggling and another religious Jew got sent to the SHU for smuggling in an MP3 player. I don’t think anyone gets special treatment. Everyone is equally mistreated.
The only guy who dared to stand up to Mshulom was another Lubavitcher who had the nickname “Brazil.” He got this nickname because he grew up in Brazil. Brazil also picked fights with Mshulom’s underling, a guy by the name of Ari Glucksman, who Mshulom hired to help enforce the rules. Rules are needed for a society to function properly, or chaos and anarchy will rein. In order for the small inmate world to function properly there also needs to be rules. The inmates have their own set of unwritten rules which they try to enforce. The bluboyz encourage the inmates to police themselves. So various inmates try to enforce the rules through intimidation.
Inmate Glucksman was a Satmar involved in mortgage fraud and fire insurance fraud. Brazil referred to Glucksman as “Liliput Pinteras” which in Russian means “homosexual midget.” Liliput didn’t like this nickname. They got in many fights over this nickname. Eventually Brazil was released from prison and things got back to semi-normal for Liliput.
In his mortgage fraud case, Liliput conspired with a Satmar by the name of Mendy Spitzer and another guy by the name of Yecheskel Lebovits. They conspired to commit mortgage fraud and burn down a building to collect fire insurance. Lebovits was the flame thrower. Mendy and Liliput paid Lebovits $600 a month to hide out in Israel and keep his mouth shut. After a few months Liliput reneged and stopped paying Lebovits. So Lebovits came back to America and ratted out Liliput and Mendy to the FBI. The Feds accused Liliput and Mendy of being part of the fire insurance fraud. Mendy and Liliput said they were paying Lebovits to keep quiet about the mortgage fraud and they knew nothing about arson. Either way they all ended up in jail.
Mendy was sent to Otisville for “family contact visitation reasons,” ie., to be close to his family living in Williamsburg. Mendy had his Satmar family visit him on Sundays, as they cannot drive on Saturdays as it is the Jewish Sabbath. Mendy had his girlfriend visit him on Saturdays, because she is a shiksa, and she is allowed to travel on the Sabbath. But she wasn’t your ordinary shiksa. She is an African-American shiksa, which riled up all the religious Jews in the camp. A “shonda” as they say in Yiddish. A “shonda for the goyim”, bringing shame upon the Jews in front of the goyim, or at least a shonda for the prison goyim. Mendy claimed that the shiksa was not his “girlfriend.” He said that this shiksa was his “secretary”, “office assistant”, “business associate.” Anything but his girlfriend. Mendy didn’t realize that the other Satmars locked up in Otisville conducted their own investigation and determined that she was indeed his girlfriend. News spread to the prison chaplain, a short, stocky, red bearded Lubavitcher. The prison chaplain has full blueboy powers and can throw you in the SHU in a New York minute. The chaplain was forced to take action, lest the Jews get out of control. He had some words with Mendy. I witnessed the scene. It occurred near the tennis court. Mendy got very loud and animated when he tried to defend himself.
I couldn’t understand why Mendy was being admonished by the prison chaplain. Many married Jews in the camp had shiksa girlfriends who came to visit on Saturdays, or any other day for that matter. Why was the chaplain giving Mendy such a hard time? Mendy was a religious Jew, a Satmar. Because religious Jews cannot travel on Saturdays the blueboyz give the religious Jews extra visit days to make up for the lost Saturday. If religious Jews start having visitors on Saturdays then there would be no point in giving them extra time on a Sunday. Mendy backed down and started having his shiksa visit him on Friday afternoons instead of Saturdays.
Mendy didn’t get along very well with the other Satmars. He slummed with the Spanish and Black drug dealing goyim and spurned the Jews. He even spurned his own co-defendants. He once got in a fight with Liliput, his co-D, over a slice of gefilta fish. Liliput was in charge of giving each inmate one slice of gefilte fish during the Friday night Shabbos meal. A slice of gefilte fish was placed on Mendy’s plate. But Mendy was still in the visitors room with his shiksa. When he came back to eat the gefilte fish it was gone. Some other inmate at his table must have taken it. Mendy said he wanted another slice. Liliput told Mendy that his friends sitting at his table must have stolen it, and he wasn’t getting another slice. They exchanged angry words which almost caused a riot with the other Jews.
Samars Liliput, Mendy, and Mshulom were mere amateurs when it came to Satmar flame throwing. There was one Satmar who was a professional flamethrower. An 80 years old Satmar who got a 15 year sentence. Naftuli Schlesinger burned down his factory no less than five times in a ten year period. He would have gotten away with it had his nephew not ratted him out after the last fire. Naftuli’s brother Jack was part of this scheme for many years. But he died sometime after the last fire. Jack’s son-in-law knew about the scheme. He was probably part of the scheme but Naftuli cut him out of the proceeds after Jack died. He ended up ratting out Naftuli and testifying against Naftuli as cooperating government witnesses. He testified that he was aware of the scheme but not part of it.
Many others testified against Naftuli and were granted full immunity by the government. Naftuli didn’t have a chance. The Feds focus was to lock up an 80 year old man for the rest of his life. While Naftuli was awaiting sentencing pamphets were distributed throughout Williamsburg attacking the guys who ratted him out: “Everybody knows that the two named informants are sinners of Israel, the known bad and cruel persons… they went with unheard cruelty and informed about their uncle with lies and inventions Naftali Schlesinger. And they caused that he should be sitting and suffering in a heavy jail, suffering both in his body and in his soul. And he’s expecting a heavy sentence from the judge towards a life-long imprisonment. May the Lord have pity on him…”
Some months after Naftuli got convicted he filed a motion to get a new trial. He submitted tape recordings of Jack’s son-in-law who ratted him out. The tapes were made at the office of Naftuli’s attorney four months after the trial. The son-in-law told Naftuli’s lawyer that he lied during the trial when he testified against Naftuli. He said he was now admitting his lies because he felt bad about ratting out Naftuli.
The son-in-law was hauled back into court to explain the tape recordings. The son-in-law told the judge that he didn’t know that he was being secretly tape recorded. He said that he was taken to Naftuli’s lawyer’s office by friends of Naftuli. He said that he was made to drink large quantities of alcohol in the car on the way to see Naftuli’s lawyer. He said he was not allowed to leave the law office, as the doors were blocked with large men. He told the judge that his original statements during the trial were 100% true. Naftuli lost his motion for a new trial. He is still stuck in Otisville prison, while many other guys involved in this scam enjoy their freedom.