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Bogus ‘billionaire rabbi astrologer’ sentenced

The ‘fantastical lies’ of Russell Dwayne Lewis included a fake $290 million bid for Lord & Taylor and work for the CIA, according to prosecutors

The man who falsely claimed to be a deal-making billionaire rabbi astrologer has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for defrauding a close friend and a widow with four children, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing court documents.

According to the report, Russell Dwayne Lewis used “increasingly fantastical and outrageous lies” including allegedly making a phony $290 million bid to buy the department store Lord & Taylor.

The 57-year-old concocted his schemes using a number of aliases and stolen identities. Prosecutors claimed Lewis stole the identity of a man named Clifford Getz, used the Social Security number of a 13-year-old boy in Ohio and forged a passport.

A high-school graduate from Texas, Lewis claimed he had grown up in London, and that he had earned a Ph.D. in theoretical mathematics and statistics as well as master’s degrees in neurophysics, genetics and quantum physics. He also falsely claimed that he was a rabbi.

The conman bragged that he was worth $10 billion, $18 billion and even $30 billion, depending on whom he was talking to. He reportedly told victims that he ran a secretive family investment firm, Neviim Equity, out of offices in Beverly Hills, California.

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Lewis also variously claimed to have worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, the US Secret Service and the Los Angeles Police Department. Among the made-up stories was one that he used astrological charts to help pick the jury for the 1995 O.J. Simpson double-murder trial.

Lewis was arrested in August and accused of faking a $290 million bid in bankruptcy court for America’s oldest department store chain Lord & Taylor, which had gone under in 2020. Prosecutors said that the bid resulted in ‘weeks of due diligence processes, legal discussions, and negotiations’ and cost the business thousands of dollars. Lewis reportedly never profited from the deal and so the charge in relation to Lord & Taylor was dropped under his plea agreement with prosecutors.

According to Bloomberg, Lewis has agreed to forfeit the $3.8 million he stole along with some artwork that was found in his Beverly Hills home.

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