In Los Angeles, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a rare investigation into the Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market after a council of rabbis withdrew his Kosher certification. The USDA is looking into allegations that the owner of Doheny, Michael Engelman, served meat that did not meet Jewish dietary standards. The investigation places the federal government in the awkward position of enforcing a religious practice. At issue is whether the meat was not adequately certified by rabbis. However, the tale has more turns than a Mike Hammer movie with a gumshoe, a mysterious rabbi, and boxes of meats carried out of car trunks and warehouses.
The controversy began after Eric Agaki, a private investigator, gave USDA officials surveillance recordings that he said showed market employees repacking meat containers. The facts of this whodunit however have to start earlier . . .
The gumshoe, Agaki, said that a local rabbi came to him to retain his services. Think of Mike Hammer but instead of a beautiful blonde walking to his office late one night, it is a Hasidic rabbi. It started something like this:
Mike Hammer: [narrating] It was one of those hot New York days… oh, not really hot – you drink a glass of water, wait a minute and it gushes out of your pours like Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
Mike Hammer: [narrating] It started out as one of those days when I thought I’d get a little office work done. For a week, I hadn’t been able to use my phone without cracking my nose on the top of the desk and then the door opened and there she was – a living
The rabbi complained to the gumshoe that Doheny was selling meat at prices so low that it was “putting a lot of people out of business.” He wanted Agaki to investigate. Agaki knew he would have to be working in a different area from his usual hood:
Mike Hammer: [narrating]
New YorkL.A., like any town, has a right side and a wrong side of the tracks… and if you cross ’em, and you don’t belong, suddenly your suit doesn’t fit, your necktie’s the wrong color and you wish you had your shoes shined that morning – things that you never cared about in your own bailiwick.
Agaki however took the job.
Mike Hammer: [narrating] They can’t all be big ones. For every one time an insurance company wants you to find stolen property, three worried parents want news of a son or daughter who stopped writing.
Agaki said that he videotaped Doheny workers picking up empty glatt kosher boxes from restaurants and then one of Engelman’s associates loading his car with repacked glatt kosher boxes at an unsupervised warehouse in Reseda.
Mike Hammer: [narrating] Somehow, in daylight, a
nightclubwarehouse always reminds me of a tired old woman relaxing without her makeup.
The gumshoe then followed the boxes and reportedly captured Engelman transferring the boxes at a McDonald’s.
Engelman’s supporters however smell a rat and insist that the rabbis moved against him because he was beating their friends in the market. Engelman suggested that he was set up. Agaki retorted “How can anybody set them up?. They did what they did. Nobody made them do it.”
If I was going to earn a bundle, I had the ball rolling, setting myself up as a target. They’d stampede if they were following me as close as I figured. It didn’t take long. The following morning they took the bait – hook, line and sinker.
What is left is like meat cuttings on the floor of an aging deli.
Mike Hammer: My old neighborhood hadn’t changed much since I was a kid. I guess that’s because there’s a limit to how old and dirty and decrepit any spot on Earth can become. I hadn’t been back in a long time and I wouldn’t have gone back when I did if it had been anybody else but
Mama Dukas who sent for mebut my love for good deli meats.
See ya in the funny papers, shlemiel.
Source: LA Times