The New York prison system is dealing with a bizarre scandal after the media revealed taht an inmate at “the Tombs” in Manhattan was given an elaborate bar mitzvah party for 60 people with catered food, an Orthodox singer, and 60 guests. The party was thrown by Tuvia Stern, a bail jumper and scam artist who pleaded guilty to grand larceny after victims alleged he stole $1.7 million. The bar mitzvah was for his son.
Stern fled to Brazil with his wife and five children in his effort to avoid jail in the scams. He was eventually tricked by the FBI which promised him that he would be allowed to travel if he helped find fugitive Sholam Weiss, accused of a $450-million collapse of an insurance company. Stern’s brother was also convicted. While in Brazil, Stern was jailed for an insurance fraud scheme. He spent 20 years on the lam. He is a member of the Orthodox Jewish Satmar community.
The party lasted for six hours as guests danced the hora in the jail gym. Guests were allowed to bring in their own cellphones (prohibited in prisons) and Stern was allowed to arrange for his own caterer (putting aside the money that he owes his victims and the money that he cost the state in chasing him around the globe.).
Jail Chaplain Rabbi Leib Glanz is accused of arranging for the party. He has also been accused of using the Tombs as a type of “private club” for Jewish inmates who were regularly given special foods and preferred treatment. A report found that Glanz regularly gave gifts to guards and made Jewish inmates “untouchable.” Jewish inmates were allowed to live outside of prison rules and enjoyed a virtual movable feast that Glanz brought to the jail each week with “sodas, salmon, roast chicken, roast beef, mash potatoes, vegetables, cakes, condiments.” Other inmates complained that he would throw an elaborate dinner every year with Jewish inmates and top prison brass — after which other inmates would clean up.
Glanz is staying mum. In a recent press encounter he stated: “And believe you me, I want to be respectful to you guys. I am in public life for a lot of years, and I don’t want to do bad to anybody. But I can’t make no comment about the situation, and I hope you understand me.”
What is most incredible is that officials received light punishment for participating in this special treatment and prior parties. Glanz himself, who should have been fired and barred from working in the correctional system, was suspended for two weeks. That’s right, two weeks.
Mayor Bloomberg personally participated in a ceremony in 2002 honoring Glanz and giving him the Commissioner’s Award “for his work in providing spiritual counsel and comfort to both inmates and staff, as well as his work in assisting the Department ‘s Training Academy in designing leadership and sensitivity courses.” Glanz has been previously identified as someone who was able to leverage his connections to powerful New York officials for funding and special favors.
It appears that no one will be fired for running the Tombs like the prison in Goodfellas. (Henry Hill: “See, you know when you think of prison, you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars. But it wasn’t like that for wiseguys. It really wasn’t that bad. Excepting that I missed Jimmy. He was doing his time in Atlanta. I mean, everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs. But we lived alone. And we owned the joint.”). Indeed, Glanz is accused to telling Jewish inmates that he could arrange for them to be sent to The Tombs where they could enjoy special treatment. News reports quote witnesses as saying that Glanz allowed inmates to use his cellphone for phone sex and that at his parties inmates were allowed to have sex in the bathroom and gamble. His “Jewishfellas” program violated prison regulations, compromised security, and made a mockery of prison system. Yet, unless changed after the recent media attention, he will simply be suspended for two weeks and the many officials (like Chief Peter Curcio, the head of security) who helped him (and enjoyed his favors) will remain employed in the system.
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