Detectives are investigating the business dealings of the financially troubled Satmar real estate developer and landlord whose charred corpse was pulled from a Great Neck Dumpster Friday, miles from the Williamsburg office where he was abducted the night before.
A law enforcement source told The Jewish Week hate crimes detectives were not currently involved, though all angles are being investigated. On Monday afternoon the family of Menachem Stark offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of his killers.
The New York Post on Sunday said Menachem Stark, 39 and the father of 7 had defaulted on $51 million in real estate loans and was a defendant in several lawsuits. He also reportedly had many disgruntled tenants in run-down properties he owns in Brooklyn and Queens. Public records show he has a string of foreclosures and a $1.3 million judgment against him. The Post on Monday said his business partner,
The Post’s Sunday headline, based on the numerous enemies Stark may have accumulated through his business dealings, provoked outrage among Brooklyn elected officials and family members who considered it insensitive (See accompanying story.)
Stark reportedly died of suffocation and police said his remais appear to have been left the night before and was in the Dumpster all day until a gas station employee investigated the smell of burnt flesh.
Robbery was evidently not the motive as he was found with $4,000 in his wallet, reports said.
A Jewish community source, citing information from cops, said investigators are working on the theory that Stark was abducted by people hired to commit the crime. Because surveillance footage showed the captors struggling with their victim for several minutes, they appear to be amatuers who may not be very good at covering their tracks, the source said.
Stark’s wife initially called a local religious security patrol, Shomrim, when Stark didn’t return home late Thursday night, the New York Post reported. The footage taken from a store near Stark’s Rutledge Street office reportedly showed him being forced into a white Dodge minivan by two people shortly before midnight after as a thick blanket of snow fell over the area. Police were notified around 2:30 a.m. after family members viewed security footage obtained by Shomrim.
The fact that Stark was not killed on the spot but taken for a ride in the van, and perhaps tortured, suggests the kidnappers were trying to extract something from him.
Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, an umbrella group for local community services, said he had no theories about who would want Stark dead. He said the businessman, whom he did not know personally, had troubles that are not uncommon.
“There are many buildings, governmental and non-governmental, that have violations against them,” he said of Stark’s reputation as a landlord. “He owed money? Show me one person in real estate or in business that doesn’t owe money. And great people go bankrupt. Show me one airline that hasn’t been bankrupt, and emerged.” He sais reports of Stark’s dealings were unfair. “IT’s terrible to do that to a person because he’s not around to defend himself.”
Rabbi Niederman said Stark’s seven children — some media reports listed 8 kids — range in age from 17 to 1.
Stark’s family initially offered a $100,000 reward for his return. Instead, they joined hundreds of mourners who gathered on a snow-covered Marcy Avenue outside Lodiner Beis Medrash for his funeral Saturday night. Speakers said he was always willing to help others.
JTA contributed to this report.