Monday, January 06, 2014

Finances Probed in Killing 

New York City authorities on Monday were investigating the business dealings of a well-known real-estate developer in Brooklyn’s Hasidic community who police said was kidnapped and murdered last week.

New York Police Department detectives don’t have a firm lead on the suspects or motive in death of Menachem “Max” Stark, 39 years old, but were looking into his history of “business practices,” a law-enforcement official said. Investigators believe Mr. Stark was specifically targeted, the official said.

Mr. Stark was confronted by two people outside his office at 315 Rutledge St. in Williamsburg around 11:35 p.m. Thursday during a snowstorm, police said. He was making his way to his car.

He struggled with both people for several minutes but was subdued and forced into the light-colored Dodge Caravan they arrived in, police said.

At some point Mr. Stark was bound with duct tape, the official said. His body was discovered Friday afternoon in a smoldering trash can at Getty gas station on Cuttermill Road in Great Neck, N.Y., in Nassau County—Mr. Stark had burns on his torso and hands, the official said.

Mr. Stark’s family and the Hasidic community raised the reward leading to the arrest of his killer to $25,000 from $11,000 on Monday.

“Our hearts are shattered into a million pieces…life will never be the same without Menachem. It just won’t,” said Abraham Buxbaum, Mr. Stark’s brother-in-law, during a news conference.

Family members declined to discuss a possible motive or respond to details regarding the investigation.

“It’s irrelevant right now,” Mr. Buxbaum said. “We’re trying to have the people arrested, and then we’ll know all the details. I can try to speculate all day, but it wouldn’t matter.”

People interviewed by the NYPD, which is leading the investigation though Mr. Stark’s body was found in Nassau County, described him as an adept businessman who had a significant real estate portfolio, the official said.

“For a guy his age, he was very, very ambitious. I remember him talking about his first big building,” said community organizer and former neighbor Gary Schlesinger. “It was when gentrification was just beginning to happen in Williamsburg.”

Mr. Stark was sued in Brooklyn Supreme Court in 2009 ad 2010 for failing to pay his mortgage on two properties, court records show. Both cases were dismissed when the trustee for the mortgage holder sold the properties, court records show.

Mr. Stark was also known for helping raise funds for neighborhood causes, Mr. Schlesinger said. Mr. Stark was scheduled to be the guest of honor at a fundraising dinner for Bonei Olam, a group in the Williamsburg community that helps parents struggling with fertility.

Hundreds gathered to mourn him after his death, Mr. Schlesinger said, adding, “Everyone knew who he was.”

Witnesses have told police that Mr. Stark regularly had large sums of cash and may have been carrying $4,000 at the time of his kidnapping, the law-enforcement official said. Police searched Mr. Stark’s car and found more than $2,000 in cash inside, the official said.

Several bank documents were found in Mr. Stark’s clothes, including a paycheck in his name for $1,000 from his business, Southside Associates LLC, and an uncashed check for $40,000 addressed to Mr. Stark from Signature Bank, the official said.

Fernando Cerff, 70, who said he was plowing snow from the Getty station when he saw smoke rising out of a trash bin. He dumped snow inside, thinking someone had tossed a cigarette in there, he said.

Around 3 p.m. that day, Mr. Cerff said he approached the trash bin to throw something out and smelled something awful. He said he then called police.


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