By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A singer and purported rabbi who claimed to have the stardom of Michael Jackson in Israel was sentenced to one to three years prison on Tuesday for stealing $36,000 from a Washington Heights woman.
Michoel Streicher, 50, scammed the money from his victim — a fellow Orthodox Jew — by promising he would invest it in a coveted Torah scroll, which he said he would acquire through his connections in Israel.
Instead, Streicher took the money and ignored demands from the victim, Judy Burstein, and her family to return it.
Burstein said she intended to give the Torah to her now deceased husband, who was ill and unable to leave the house to worship.
Streicher was found guilty of grand larceny and harassment at trial. When he testified he described himself as a major music celebrity overseas.
"It wasn't fifty thousand it was only a few — they exaggerated," Streicher allegedly said when he was arrested on Feb. 17, 2008, according to court documents.
"I've got mafia, I've got guns. You don't want to mess with me."
At his sentencing Tuesday, Streicher's lawyer Eric Franz, asked for a reduced sentence of only six months, with probation to follow.
But Manhattan Supreme Court Judge said Streicher should have to pay for the stress and agony he caused Burstein's family.
The funds were not returned until Tuesday, when Streicher handed over a check to prosecutors in court.
Burstein's son, Yehuda, 34, said his mother is very relieved that the ordeal is over.
Outside the courthouse, Franz defended Streicher's questionable status as a member of the Orthodox clergy. The lawyer said Streicher is a trained rabbi, but does not have his own congregation.