Picture from FBI wanted poster
April 1, 1954 |
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Known for||Insurance fraud|
|78 counts of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering|
|845 years imprisonment|
|Criminal status||Housed at a Federal Correctional Facility near Scranton, Pennsylvania; scheduled date of release: November 23, 2754|
Sholam Weiss (also spelled Shalom Weiss; born April 1, 1954) is an American former businessman and convicted felon. In 2000, he was convicted of multiple fraud and money laundering counts and sentenced to 845 years in prison for looting the National Heritage Life Insurance. It was believed to be the largest insurance failure in history at the time, with over $450 million in losses. Weiss fled the country at the end of his trial and was a fugitive for one year. He was subsequently extradited from Austria.
The sentence imposed on Weiss is believed to be the longest known to have ever been imposed for a white-collar crime. Weiss was convicted of 78 counts including racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering and ordered to pay $125 million in restitution and $123 million in penalties. About a dozen individuals were convicted for involvement in the collapse; another defendant, Keith Pound, received a 750-year sentence, and $139 million in restitution. Pound died in prison in 2004 at age 51. Federal cooperators Michael Blutrich and Lyle Pfeffer received reduced sentences of 200 months  and served their terms in the Federal Witness Security Program.
Weiss was captured in Austria and extradited pursuant to an international arrest warrant. He was not permitted to appeal his extradition in accordance with the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which holds an appeal may be rejected on the grounds that the appellant is a fugitive.
Early life and background
Weiss grew up in Borough Park, Brooklyn, where his father ran a fruit stand. He was educated in a yeshiva, where he spoke Yiddish, and received the equivalent of a high school education. He was born and raised Jewish. He did not learn English until he was in his late teens. He began doing construction work as a young man and established a plumbing supply company.
The plumbing supply firm failed and declared bankruptcy. Weiss began hiring himself out as a bankruptcy specialist, advising other businesses. Through that business he met Michael D. Blutrich, who owned the topless club Scores, which then was controlled by the Gambino Crime Family.
National Heritage Life Insurance
Federal authorities said the fraud began in the early 1990s, when a group of businessmen began looting the company. Weiss took control in 1993, and with several confederates bought up worthless stocks and mortgages. The money vanished or ended up in accounts controlled by Weiss.
On October 18, 1999, after a nine-month trial, Weiss failed to appear while the jury was deliberating, and was declared a fugitive. At Weiss's sentencing on the National Heritage charges in February, Judge Patricia C. Fawsett said that Weiss should be removed permanently from society because of the magnitude and repeated nature of his fraudulent acts. He was eventually apprehended by Austrian authorities in the Fall of 2000.
Incarceration and subsequent proceedings
Weiss challenged his incarceration in a habeas corpus petition in federal court, claiming that the United States violated its extradition treaty with Austria. Because the courts cannot provide a re-sentencing and appeal, Weiss argued that, under treaty law, the Executive branch of the United States must still provide the benefit of a re-sentencing and appeal and that he was denied that benefit as a result of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine. Weiss is currently serving his 845-year sentence at United States Penitentiary, Canaan, a high security prison near Scranton, Pennsylvania. He has a current projected "release date" of November 23, 2754, meaning that he will spend the rest of his life in custody.
- Whitney, Sally (September 2000). "Anatomy of a Failure". Best's Review. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
- "Testimony of Dennis Lormel, Section Chief, Financial Crimes, Before the House Financial Services Committee, March 6, 2001". FBI. 2001-03-06. Retrieved 2009-07-02.[dead link]
- UnitedStates District Court, MDFL, Case No. 97-71-CR-ORL-22
- Report on the situation of fundamental rights in Austria 2003, EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, January 2004, [accessed 8 July 2009]
- Rashbaum, William K. (9 March 2000). "845 Years in Prison, If the Authorities Can Catch Him; F.B.I. Says Fugitive Has a Flair For Fraud and Hiding Stolen Cash". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (2003-05-15). "Communication No 1086/2002 : Austria. CCPR/C/77/D/1086/2002. (Jurisprudence)". Retrieved 2007-05-12.
- Parliamentary Assembly (2003-04-01). "Extradition of Sholam Weiss". Council of Europe. Retrieved 2007-05-12.
- "U.S. Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator". Retrieved 2009-07-02.