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Kosher scandal skewers Doheny meat market: Treyf hits the fan in LA

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Outrageous claims and alleged video evidence have led to a major Los Angeles meat market losing its kosher certification.

To get an idea of how serious the situation may be, try imagining, perhaps, a population of vegetarians learning that their meatless, non-GMO foods might actually be made of Monsanto seeds and horses. 

Now add religion to that the scene.

It's real bad.

An investigation of Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently underway, the L.A. Times reports, and the Rabbinical Council of California (RCC) is considering "legal action," according to a statement published Friday in the LA Jewish Journal.

First reported by KTLA, the council of rabbis revoked certification for the shop the day before Passover; an unknown number of households and businesses may have been compromised. On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed in L.A. Superior Court against the market and its owner, Michael Engelman.

Engelman is accused of picking up empty glatt kosher boxes and repacking them with non-kosher meat using fraudulent stickers, according to LAJJ

[Independent private investigator Eric] Agaki captured video and physical evidence that he said showed Doheny’s owner was reusing boxes from Agri Star Meat and Poultry, a glatt kosher meat processor, packing them with non-glatt kosher-certified meat, and then resealing them with fraudulent tape and labels that said “Aaron’s Best,” an Agri Star brand.

Agaki's video purports to show unsealed boxes being loaded into a car, handed off, and brought into the store without the required supervision of the mashgiach inspector. Amid the scandal, the store's inspector has been suspended for "a lapse in the RCC supervisory system" called a "human error of an otherwise dedicated Mashgiach who absented himself for prayers," notes LAJJ.

The lawsuit alleges fraud, breach of contract, and infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff Joshua Fard says the evidence of non-Kosher food preparation is not an isolated incident for the state's long-time kosher meat supplier at 9213 W. Pico Boulevard. Fard is urging other plaintiffs with similar complaints to come forward and make it a class-action case.

In the 1980s, a treyf freezer breach in Los Alamitos led to a community-wide kitchen cleansing ritual of "koshering," said Rabbi Gershon Schusterman in an interview with LAJJ. Schusterman believes Engelman may also have been involved in the operation of the Los Alamitos shop.

In an interview with The Times on Monday, Agaki denied rumors that local competitors were looking to set up Doheny market in a scandal:

“How can anybody set them up?” Agaki said of Engelman and his associates. “They did what they did. Nobody made them do it.

“Nobody hired me, nobody paid me,” he continued. “If anybody wants to pay me and send me donations, I’m glad to accept them.”

Agaki said his investigation into Doheny began about seven months ago when he was approached by a local rabbi. The rabbi told him some community members were frustrated because Doheny was selling meat “way too cheap” and  “putting a lot of people out of business.”

The store has since received new certification from local rabbis, reports the San Diego Jewish Journal:

Rabbi Menachem Weiss, whose father, Rabbi Meshulom Dov Weiss, is listed as the shop’s new kosher supervisor told the newspaper that two supervisors would be present in the store at all times and that seven cameras had been installed to permit remote monitoring of the premises.

Posted on the Jewish Journal's YouTube channel is surveillance video they say is related to the Doheny Meat scandal.