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Sunday, January 5, 2014

A list of enemies 'a mile long': Kidnapped and killed millionaire real estate developer was 'a slumlord' claim cops as his funeral is held

Hundreds of members of a Hasidic community gathered Saturday in Brooklyn for an emotional funeral service honoring a Jewish Orthodox landlord who was kidnapped, murdered and stuffed into a trash bin.

Somber mourners dressed all in black came together at 9pm at the Lodiner Bais Medrash synagogue in Williamsburg to pay tribute to 39-year-old Menachem Stark, whose charred remains were discovered in a Dumpster on Long Island Friday afternoon.

The funeral came amid claims that the multimillionaire was in fact a slumlord with a a list of enemies 'a mile long.

Police sources told the New York Post that Stark owed many contractors money and faced a series of compaints over his properties in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

In accordance with Jewish tradition, the funeral service and burial took place just hours after police identified the scorched body found at a Great Neck gas station as the missing real estate developer who was forced into a van during Thursday's blizzard. 

During the ceremony, which was conducted in Yiddish and was frequently interrupted by ritual wailing, speakers described the father of eight as a pillar of the Satmar Hasidic community who was always ready to help the less fortunate with money for food and rent, The Jewish Daily Forward reported.

A body was found at around 4pm Friday in Great Neck with extensive burns and Nassau County police have identified the remains as that of Stark, 39, who was kidnapped in Brooklyn during the blizzard that hit New York City.

A police source told the New York Daily News that the victim was likely suffocated before his killers wrapped his body in fabric, stuffed him into a trash bin at a gas station and set fire to his corpse.

Fernando Cerff, the owner of the Getty gas station on Cutter Mill Road, told the paper that Friday morning his workers were shoveling snow when they noticed smoke rising from the Dumpster.

Thinking that someone had tossed a cigarette inside, they sprinkled some snow into the container.

When Cerff approached the Dumpster in the afternoon, he noticed a horrible stench coming from the bin.

Cerff became suspicious and called police, which immediately discovered the body amidst the trash beneath a layer of snow.

This development comes as cops released dramatic surveillance footage that shows the suspects forcing Stark into a Dodge Caravan after he left his offices in Williamsburg late on Thursday evening.

On Friday the family of Stark, 39, offered a $100,000 'no questions asked' reward for his safe return on Friday, as police combed through surveillance video that appears to show his abduction.

Officers say the incident happened at around 11.20pm, when Stark was grabbed by two men on Rutledge Street in South Williamsburg. Some reports suggest he was carrying $4,000 in cash.

DNA Info reported that Stark was approached and manhandled into a light-colored van by two men as he left his office at Southside Associates at 331 Rutledge Street.

His wife, Bashie, apparently became concerned when Stark did not return after midnight and contacted Shomrim, a neighborhood patrol group for the Orthodox community.

Surveillance footage was then discovered in Stark's office that shows a struggle with one man, before the van pulls up and he is wrestled by two men into the vehicle.

Stark's brothers Yitzy and Yoely told the New York Post: 'We saw two people fighting with him, and they put him into a big white van, a Dodge Caravan,' Yitzy, 30, said.

The brothers described Menachem's alleged attackers to the Post as 'big' and 'black.'

The New York Daily News reported that Stark was carrying $4,000 in cash, but Yitzy Stark denied this when he offered the six-figure reward for his brother's return.

'We're waiting for a phone call with demands. [We're] just hoping that he is still alive,' Yitzy told DNA Info. 'We'll do anything they ask.'

Shomrim reportedly informed the NYPD of the incident at around 2.30 a.m. on Friday. Both the police and the community are now looking for clues on the white Dodge minivan.

Officials spent the day in the local area conducting interviews and reviewing surveillance footage from local businesses.

The Real Deal claimed that Stark, and associate Israel Perlmutter, were being sued more than $51 million in 2011, over loans for development projects in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

And a number of tenants who claimed to live in properties owned by Southside Associates have left a number of angry complaints on sites such as Yelp about the condition and maintenance of the apartments, also describing Stark as a 'slumlord.'

One user wrote: 'These people are absolutely terrible. It's as though they have no hearts and no compassion for anyone else. All they seem to care about is their bank account.'

Yitzy Stark described his brother to the Daily News as 'a good man, a great man.' 'Nobody around here would say anything bad about him,' he added.

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