Real Name: Joseph Prushinowski
Aliases: Joseph Weiss
Wanted For: Fraud
Missing Since: 1992
Details: Montreal Rabbi Joseph Prushinowski is wanted for several cases of international bank fraud totaling $190 million. He was a Hasidic Jew who was devoted to his religion. He settled in Canada in the late 1960s with his wife and twelve children. He claimed to run a modest import/export business from the basement of his home.
In a scheme committed in 1985, Prushinowski's first step was to open up a bank. A clerical assistant named Allen Finegold unwittingly helped with the arrangement. They decided to open one in Anguilla, as the country is known for its lenient banking laws. He gave Allen two names to be the owners for his bank. Allen did not know that the "owners" were not real. Prushinowski used signature stamps for the "owners". He was able to obtain cashier's checks for his bank, which appear to be much more legitimate for scam victims.
The second step for his swindle was to write out checks, up to $1 million, supposedly guaranteed by the bank in Anguilla. He would then deposit the checks in business accounts he had set up around the world. After that, he would contact the bank in person or by phone. Using his talent for persuasion, he would convince the bankers to give him large amounts of cash, even though the checks had not yet cleared. Of course, the checks would bounce, and the banks would end up thousands or even millions of dollars short.
Meanwhile, Allen began receiving several calls from angry bankers, demanding their money. Ultimately, a Japanese company would file a lawsuit against Prushinowski, his company, and Allen. In March of 1987, RCMP agents searched Prushinowski's office. At that point, Allen realized that he was an unwitting part of a scam. Investigators realized that he was a young, naive man who had no knowledge of the scam; he was cleared of any involvement.
When the police began investigating, Prushinowski fled with his wife and children to the United States. He began living under the name "Joseph Weiss" and was involved in several additional scams in New York and other states. Between 1990 and 1992, he perpetrated even more scams in Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, England, and Australia.
In some cases, he has even negotiated to give back some of the stolen money. He knew that most banks do not like to go to the police; instead, they just want their money back. As a result, many of the banks would not report him to the police. Some banks, however, were not willing to negotiate. Warrants are now out for his arrest in Canada and the United States.
Surprisingly, investigators have found no evidence that he has personally benefited from his fraud schemes. They believe that he is giving the money to Jewish charities and churches. He was last known to be scamming under the name of Joseph Weiss in 1992.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 20, 1993 episode.
Results: Captured. Prushinowski was captured in Israel in November of 1998. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations ran out on the fraud charges that he was wanted for in Canada. However, he was convicted of seven fraud charges in a Jerusalem court and sentenced to seven years in prison. There are still outstanding warrants for him in the United States.