Saturday, January 04, 2014
A smoldering corpse pulled from a Great Neck dumpster is the millionaire Hasidic real estate developer who was dramatically kidnapped outside his real estate office in Williamsburg on Thursday, law enforcement confirmed to The Post.
"He owed a lot of people money," one source said of Menachem Stark, 39, who had a string of recent foreclosures and owned some 16 mostly vacant or run-down and drug infested properties under at least a dozen corporate names in Queens and in Brooklyn's Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick neighborhoods.
The father of eight died of suffocation, sources said. His body suffered severe burns to one hand and below the waist; it is not clear if he was set on fire before or after his death.
Stark's business troubles included his history of defaulting on $51 million in real estate development loans — and a string of related lawsuits.
Investigators are finding a pattern of shady dealings in which he acquire properties and then "lose" the properties by foreclosing on big mortgage and improvement loans, only to have the properties snapped up at bargain basement prices by family members and associates, one law enforcement source said.
Stark was also known as a neighborhood ATM machine — dispensing loans to those in need of quick cash, said a neighborhood source familiar with his business dealings.
"He's a Hasidic Jew from Williamsburg, and we think he's a scammer," said one law enforcement source. "And he f—ed over a few people."
Stark had never made it home Thursday night from his Southside Associates office in Williamsburg, from which he ran his seedy empire — which once included the notorious Greenpoint Hotel on Manhattan Avenue, a flophouse so decrepit and drug-filled, the feds seized it in 2005.
By Saturday morning, the NYPD released dramatic video showing suspects forcing Stark into a light-colored Dodge Caravan outside his office, on snow-covered Rutledge Street near Broadway. Investigators believe he was duct-taped before he was thrown into the van (pictured here), which sped off, going east on Broadway.
Soon afterward, Stark's name was matched to a body that had been discovered by a gas station employee in Great Neck had discovered the body around 4 p.m., Friday and alerted Nassau County Police.
The body was likely there overnight.
"In the morning, it was smoking," Fernando Cerff said of finding a small plume of smoke rising at around 7 a.m. Friday from his Dumpster at his Getty Station. Cerff assumed that a lit cigarette had been tossed inside. He shoveled some snow on top and left it, he said.
"We threw snow on it, and it stopped," he said. But by mid-afternoon, he noticed the stench of charred flesh — and called the police.
"The smell," he said. "It made me sick."
The investigation was slowed somewhat on Saturday by the Jewish Sabbath.
"It's a little hard to get ahold of some people," one investigator said of the difficulties of investigating the apparent homicide on the Jewish Sabbath. Stark's business dealings were primarily — though not solely — with other Orthodox businessmen, the source said.
Still, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, six detectives and two NYPD community affairs officers arrived at Stark's home, just five blocks away from his real estate offices on Rutledge St.
Other family members — including inlaws, nephews and nieces — were holed up inside.
Neighbors described the family as well-liked and community-minded, with one noting that the home was always open to visitors and that Stark gave very generously to Jewish charities.
"The community is shocked beyond words, and also grateful for the tireless work by the NYPD," said Rabbi Abe Friedman, a community leader and NYPD liaison.
But Stark's irate tenants complained of squalid living conditions, and opponents of his development projects indicate he had several enemies.
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