A devout Hassidic Jew is also a brilliant con man.

Joseph Prushinowski wearing glasses, kippah, and full beard

Joseph Prushinowski


Gender: Male
DOB: 4/12/39
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 165 lbs.
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Brown, gray


Man holding sheet of false checks

The bogus bank was based in Anguilla

You are about to meet a devout Hassidic Jew and father of 12.   Incredibly, he’s also the mastermind of one of the greatest cons in recent history.   His name is Joseph Prushinowski, and by all accounts, he abided by the religious laws of the Hassidic Jews… except when it came to the eighth commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”   By adhering to strict religious values, the Hassidim have acquired a reputation for honesty and rock-solid integrity.   It was the perfect camouflage for Joseph Prushinowski.

Joseph, his wife, and their children lived in a Hassidic community near Montreal.   Prushinowski supposedly ran an export/import business from the basement of his modest home, but the reality was quite different.   He was also the brains behind a brilliant scam–one that would net him close to $200 million dollars.   The first step of his swindle was to open his own bank.   An unsuspecting clerical assistant named Allen Finegold helped with the arrangements.   The Caribbean Island of Anguilla is notorious for having some of the most lenient banking standards in the world.   Prushinowski supplied two names to be the owners, or principals of his newly created bank.   What Allen Finegold didn’t know was that Prushinowski had made up the names:

“The application form required a witness.   So I witnessed the signatures… which I found out afterwards, wasn’t exactly a legally accepted procedure…”

Basement with a cabinet, desk, lamp and office supplies

He ran the scam from his basement

Chartering an actual bank was a measure of Prushinowski’s sophistication.   He could now issue official looking bank cashier’s checks, which were much more convincing than simple personal checks.

The second step of his plan was to write out checks in amounts of up to $1 million dollars, which the bank in Anguilla guaranteed.   He would then deposit the checks in business accounts he had set up all over the world.   Prushinowski would then contact the bank in person or by phone and, using his incredible talents of persuasion, convince the bankers to advance him large amounts of cash even though the checks had not yet cleared.

Reporter Michael Gillard covered Prushinowski’s cons for several news media outlets:

“He’s a very clever, very, very persuasive man, a man who trades on his being a very religious person when he deals with banks.   Very good at persuading them to cash his checks written on funny banks in faraway places with strange sounding names.   Eventually the checks all bounced or most of them bounced.   By the time the bouncing stopped, the bank was a million dollars short.”

Canadian Royal Mounted Police officer walking into the basment

Canadian Mounties busted the operation

Meanwhile, Allen Finegold found himself taking calls from angry bankers demanding their money.   Ultimately, a Japanese company filed a lawsuit against both Prushinowski and Allen Finegold:

“Being sued for a million dollars was something relatively shocking to me and I didn’t understand what was going on here, being cited as a codefendant.”

Allen’s faith was completely shattered in March of 1987, when agents of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stormed Joseph’s office.   According to Corporal Norman Denis of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Finegold was cleared of any involvement:

“Allen Finegold was hired by Prushinowski when he was 21-years-old and was very naïve.   He didn’t know very much about the business world.   So he could not even contemplate the possibility that Prushinowski had the criminal mind whenever he was asked to do things for him.”

Reporter Michael Gillard

Reporter Michael Gillard covered the case

Canadian authorities also raided Prushinowski’s home, but came up empty-handed.   The basement office had been cleared out and Prushinowski had fled, taking his wife and children with him.   From his Canadian operations, Prushinowski left a trail of rip-offs totaling more than $2 million dollars.   According to Michael Gillard, it was just a hint of what was still to come:

“After Joseph Prushinowski left Montreal, he disappears off the face of the earth, no one seems ever to see him, hear from him again.   But what then happens is all of a sudden, Joseph Weiss starts to appear.”

It didn’t take long to figure out that Joseph Weiss and Joseph Prushinowski were the same person.   But now, his swindles were becoming absurdly huge. Between 1990 and 1992, financial institutions across Europe lost more than $100 million dollars.   In the United States, they lost $30 million dollars and in Australia more than $35 million.   The astounding total, worldwide, exceeded $190 million.   Finally, this master con man came up with one more brilliant plan, one that keeps him safely beyond the reach of the law.   According to Reporter Michael Gillard, Prushinowski negotiated to return a portion of the stolen money:

“He knows that banks don’t like to go to the police.   They don’t like to prosecute people.   What they want is their money back.   So they will settle and what that of course does, is by and large, it removes the lender from being a complainant to create a criminal prosecution problem from Prushinowski in that particular country and he’s used that tactic very successfully all over the world.”

However, a few banks were not willing to settle and arrest warrants were issued for the conman.   Authorities now believe that Prushinowski used the stolen money to set up numerous legitimate businesses, and then used those profits to provide housing, education and other services to the Hassidic community.


After more than ten years on the run, Joseph Prushinowski was arrested in Israel.   He was convicted of seven fraud charges in a Jerusalem court and sentenced to seven years in prison.   Here in the United States, Prushinowski is still wanted by the FBI on multiple counts of bank fraud.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season five with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.




  1. Bronny

    I suspect Allen Finegold had much more of a role in Joseph Prushinowski’s fraud scheme than what was being portrayed in the segment. For example, I highly doubt it was just by mere coincidence, or happenstance, that Mr. Finegold chose the location of the bank to be in Anguilla, which just happened to have lenient banking standards, where the regulatory process makes it easier for banks to commit fraud. It’s absolutely possible that Finegold SPECIFICALLY chose Anguilla for that reason, so Mr. Prushinowski’s frauds could’ve been easier to execute.

    Additionally, if he was even halfway decent at doing his job as a clerical assistant, Finegold would’ve double and triple checked to see if it was legally acceptable to use signature stamps from the owners of the bank, instead of just assuming the stamp is as good as a physical signature. You’d have to be either ignorant, or complicit, (rather than simply “naive,” as the detective in the segment claimed) to not see how the owner of a bank would utilize such a peculiar tactic, therefore making it easier to defraud millions of dollars.

    Obviously, Finegold cut some sort of deal with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and exposed Prushinowski, so he wouldn’t have to serve any time. He knew once he was named as a co-defendant that he better comply, or he’s in serious trouble. Despite the fact that he assisted authorities in the investigation, the way he went in assisting Prushinowski to commit his frauds, and just chalking it up not knowing any better, was a very convenient out for him.


  2. Jack

    This whole story is 100 percent false! It’s just people that couldn’t find real good stories so decided to make up some! For those that knew this person, he was the most honest person just had a bad neighbor that spread a nonsense rumor.


  3. Phillip

    You can find any religion and you will always find wicked men who exploit people using God’s name. Joel Osteen ,Kenneth Copeland, radical islamic extremist, also remember Jim Jones who murdered all those people in Gianna? It happens because men are fallen by nature and follow their carnal appetite. Jesus Christ is God almighty and said many are called but few are chosen. Jews aren’t the threat. Wicked, Godless people are.


  4. Tortoise

    I believe they often do extradite to the United States. Don’t know circumstances here and also puzzled. Have your opinion on Israel-Palestinian issues, but seriously, world should withdraw support because as far as you can tell, they didn’t cooperate in extraditing one con-man??? Just curious, did you already have a previous feeling towards Israel and Jews before you read this article? Just asking…


  5. Nate

    In Brooklyn, NY I see the results of much of that stolen money. The Orthodox Jews have acquire many businesses and are still building rental properties. Don’t understand how the FBI and other law enforcement haven’t stopped them. I guess this is the best way to make money in real estate.


    • Sally

      The man was based in Montreal, not New York. You sound antisemetic.


      • Bronny

        Yes, Prushinowski was BASED in Montreal. That doesn’t mean the money he allegedly stole can’t be used in multiple countries across the world.

        In fact, seeing as how Mr. Prushinowski allegedly stole over $30 million from United States banks, ALONE, demonstrates that said money could easily have been distributed around to Jewish Hasidic communities in states all over the country.

        If you bothered to utilize some basic critical thinking skills, you would be able to connect those dots, instead of calling anyone that says something you don’t like “anti-Semitic.”


  6. Anonymous

    Israel and the jews are the biggest threat to the USA. PERIOD!


  7. Laina

    Does Israel not extradite to the United States?
    I think it is time for the WORLD to cut off their support of Israel and Jews.


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