Jacko’s ‘Ex-Rabbi’: Did $100,000 Go to Charity?
Friday, April 02, 2004
By Roger Friedman
The list of con men and hustlers who’ve taken advantage of Michael Jackson continues to grow, especially where charity causes are concerned. Jackson has been in Washington this week talking about raising money for new charities, but his old ones are still dogging him.
You will recall that Jackson was involved in something called Heal the Kids with Rabbi “Shmuley” Boteach. I’ve told you before that the most recent filing for Boteach’s charity, L’Chaim Society, under which Heal the Kids fell, listed as one of its directors James Meiskin, a man currently in trouble with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office for extortion.
But it now turns out that when you call the number for the L’Chaim Society, all you get is a recorded message that says the charity is gone and so is the rabbi. There are no forwarding numbers, according to the message. There is an old, non-working number listed in Boston for the man who signed the last L’Chaim Society tax return, one Arash Farin, and no listing anywhere for its other director, Avri Vantman.
You can always hear or see Boteach on TV or radio giving his opinion about something or other and plugging one of his books.
But one thing he doesn’t seem able to opine is where all the money went from the short-lived charity. And one person who might be interested is Denise Rich, who wrote Boteach a check for $100,000 in the fall of 2000 for the L’Chaim Society right around the time Boteach and his then pal Michael Jackson came to two of her own fundraising events.
That $100,000 shows up in the L’Chaim Society’s 2000 tax return. The same return shows no money whatsoever was spent on anything remotely charitable, just salaries and expenses.
Rich, who is the victim in this case, thought she was giving the money to one of Jackson’s charities at the time. But a source of mine who was with Jackson at the time says Jackson never saw the money or the check. It went straight to Boteach and the L’Chaim Society.
Now, there is an even more interesting connection between all these people: Boteach’s American benefactor is famous stock trader and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt. Steinhardt has been one of the staunchest supporters and business associates of Rich’s ex-husband, Marc, a financier convicted of tax evasion and racketeering who was then pardoned by President Clinton in January 2001. Steinhardt lobbied hard for the pardon.
Like Michael Jackson, Steinhardt — whose father was the famous criminal “Red” Steinhardt with heavy ties to the mob and Meyer Lansky — has his own zoo, too. Steinhardt financed Boteach’s mortgage for a $1.5 million home in New Jersey four years ago. Somehow, he managed to get him a cash loan from a local bank. Why did he do it? According to my sources, Boteach may have saved one of Steinhardt’s sons from involvement in a cult, and Steinhardt was grateful. I mean, really grateful.
Yesterday when I spoke with Steinhardt, he denied that either of his sons had had problems with a cult. He said, “I financed Shmuley’s mortgage.” Why? “Because I liked him. And he needed a big house for socializing.”
“He’s an odd figure, Shmuley,” Steinhardt said. “He has good and bad qualities. He’s done things where his judgment is not so good, like being involved with Al Sharpton and Michael Jackson. But his intentions are good.”
Steinhardt voiced surprise that Boteach had been running a L’Chaim Society here in New York for the last several years. And that was kind of interesting since he was one of the forces behind the Boteach/L’Chaim fundraiser in February 2001 at Carnegie Hall that featured a panel discussion on children starring Jackson, game show host Chuck Woolery, and others. The money made from ticket sales that evening has never been accounted for. The organization that hosted it — the Seminar Center — folded soon after.
Boteach — who is banned by the United Synagogues in Great Britian from having a pulpit — is best remembered for a quote he gave the London Independent in 1996. He said there is an 11th, unwritten Commandment: “Thou shalt do anything for publicity and recognition.”