Source: Authorities looking into slain Brooklyn landlord's financial dealings
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Investigators are examining whether the business dealings of a slain Brooklyn landlord whose body was found in Great Neck may have been related to his death, a law enforcement source familiar with the case said Sunday.
Menachem "Max" Stark, 39, was kidnapped outside his Williamsburg office Thursday night and his partly burned body was found Friday in a commercial trash bin in Great Neck, police said.
Investigators are looking into Stark's finances and whether he borrowed money from the "wrong people," or whether a former employee may have been involved, said the source, who was briefed on the investigation. According to the source, Stark had fired several employees, without notice or explanation.
Neither the NYPD nor the Nassau police, who are assisting in the investigation, would discuss a possible motive Sunday.
Family members said Stark, who was married and had seven children, was charitable and paid for poor children to attend private school and paid marriage dowries for less-affluent families.
But he was often involved in legal and financial disputes, records show. Since 2007, Stark and his business partners have been sued for defaulting on more than $60 million in business loans, according to court documents. Records show that Stark and business partner Israel Perlmutter defaulted on a $29 million loan for a Brooklyn property.
In April, a federal judge ordered Stark, two other men, and their companies to pay $4 million, including interest on a defaulted $2.5-million business loan from 2008, court documents show.
Abraham Buxbaum, Stark's brother-in-law and business partner, called him a "very tough and shrewd businessman."
"Every business has its up and downs, particularly, everyone knows what the real estate market went through in the last couple of years," Buxbaum, 42, said in an interview. "He did not do anything illegal. He was never arrested."
Buildings owned by Stark were the subject of 65 housing violations dating back to 1983, according to Eric Bederman, spokesman for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The agency documented 33 violations at one four-unit property, including a dozen in 2013.
Buxbaum estimated that Stark had close to 1,000 tenants in buildings he owned.
"No one can tell me, you can have that many tenants and only have happy tenants," he said. "He tried to please each and every tenant."
Stark's body was found shortly before 4 p.m. Friday after the owner of the Getty gas station on Cutter Mill Road detected a foul smell and called police, who made the discovery.
Grainy surveillance video shows kidnappers wrestling Stark into a minivan Thursday night near his business office at 331 Rutledge St. in Williamsburg and driving away, police said. The NYPD said Stark may have been carrying a large amount of cash.
"We knew in the community it wasn't a random act," said Marcos Masri, 30, a leader among Williamsburg's Hasidic Jews.
Stark was buried in the upstate town of Kiryas Joel early Sunday, according to his brother Yitzi Stark and family friend Isaac Abraham.
Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams announced a $10,000 reward yesterday for information about Stark's death. The money was provided by anonymous donors, he said at a news conference.
Adams and other elected officials condemned a New York Post front-page headline about Stark's killing, saying the words "Who didn't want him dead?" indicated he deserved to die. The officials called for the paper to publish an apology and some of Stark's family members called for a boycott by advertisers and readers.
A spokeswoman for the Post said in a statement that "The Post does not say Mr. Stark deserved to die but our reporting showed that he had many enemies, which may have led to the commission of this terrible crime. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time of loss."
With Tania Lopez, Matthew Chayes and Nicole Fuller