Stranded US couple aided by Dutch donor

"I have a troubled past, but I’m no con artist," Miami man says.

February 10, 2010 05:12
Jack and Suzan Baumann.

suzan jack baumann 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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A Dutch financial market analyst has provided funds to an Miami couple who became stranded at Ben-Gurion Airport last week, enabling them to pay a debt that had resulted in a temporary no-exit ban, receive medical attention and stay at a hostel.

Charles Nenner, who is based in the Netherlands, pledged the funds to Jack and Suzan Baumann, who say they were forced to stay at the airport for almost a week after their cash ran out.

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“It is a pity to see people lacking even the most basic conditions,” Nenner said.

The US Embassy helped the couple book a ticket to Miami on Tuesday, and asked an airline to wave a ticket change fee for their journey.

Responding to allegations that he was a con artist and had purchased heroin in the past, which appear on the anonymously authored “Exclusive Vending” Web page, Jack Baumann said, “When I started reading that it upset me so much. I just couldn’t believe what people were saying. I want people to know I’ve never touched heroin, and I am no con artist. That Web site really hurt.”

Baumann said his past “was far from being clean” and that he had made “many mistakes.” At the same time, he said, the Web site’s allegations had no relation to reality.

A source close to the Web site, who would not be named, acknowledged he had no evidence to substantiate the heroin claim.

Baumann is the son of a Floridian Jewish family, and the brother of a property developer who sold a plot of land known as “the Miami Circle” to the City of Miami, after archeological remains of a Tequesta Indian settlement were discovered on the site.

“Since then, my family has been torn apart by disputes,” he said. “The project has caused family dysfunction and financial woes.”

The Exclusive Vending Web site’s anonymous author wrote that “Jack claimed to be former associate of Creative Concepts (which defrauded millions) and has a partial list of Red Bull vending machine owners and is working at causing those people into wiring him money into his Israeli bank account. Jack Baumann is currently in Israel and scamming people like me.”

Baumann said in response, “I had a contract with the Creative Concepts company, to offer Walmart store managers Red Bull vending machines. I was paid by commission, and put up around 120 vending machines. The contract from Red Bull North America was pulled from Creative Concepts’ manager, and he was no longer allowed to sell the machines. I worked there for a short period. It was a very short-lived experience.”

Baumann came to Israel in 2007 on what was his third visit in 20 years, he said.

“When I was here, I e-mailed people [in the US] asking if I could help them get vending machine locations from where I was. I tried making calls to Walmart, but since it was too hard to do by phone, I abandoned it. I got one business a vending machine during this time,” Baumann said.

According to Exclusive Vending, “Jack claims to have skipped the country [the US] when the sh*t hit the fan [when Creative Concepts declared bankruptcy] and he was asked to testify in court.”

“I was never asked to testify by anyone. I was never contacted by any law enforcement agencies to testify,” Baumann said.

On Monday, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry said Baumann had made aliya in the early 1990s, and began receiving aliya benefit payments.

“I arrived in Israel in 1991, and started working as a chef at the Columbus restaurant in Herzliya, and Planet Hollywood in Tel Aviv,” Baumann said.

“I was then invited by Planet Hollywood in Orlando for six weeks training, and returned to Israel in 1992 to work as a chef on the beach restaurant [of Planet Hollywood in Tel Aviv].

During that time, he added, his employer had taken him to the Interior Ministry, where he was given Israeli citizenship and an Israeli identification card.

“I received NIS 1,200 into my bank account in benefits, but never withdrew it, because my father had a stroke, and I left the country straight away to be with him,” he said.

“I have made many mistakes,” Baumann said. “In 1999, I got into a fight with a group of people who were very rude to my first wife. I was convicted of assault, and received a probation sentence.”

On Monday, the Interior Ministry said it had never received an aliya request for either Jack or his second wife, Suzan. The couple say they were in contact with the Nefesh B’Nefesh aliya organization before arriving on January 7. On Sunday evening, the couple said they were notified by Nefesh B’Nefesh that their aliya application had been rejected.

Baumann is not the subject of any Israeli law enforcement attention.

The Jerusalem Post has been contacted in recent days by a number of Efrat residents, who say that a person bearing a nearly identical name to Baumann, and who is several years older than him, had been linked to dubious loans and debts.

Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin sent a letter to all residents several years ago instructing them not to trust the individual, the residents said.

“They are two different people,” one resident said. “Maybe there is a case of mistaken identity."

Jack Baumann reiterated that the debt attributed to him was likely the result of mistaken identity.

On Tuesday afternoon, Charles Nenner, the man who sent the couple emergency rescue funds, arranged for a doctor to see Baumann and treat him for a severe sinus infection that had begun spreading to his eye.

“Whatever the allegations, they still need help,” Nenner said. “Judaism requires us to help people in distress.”

Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.

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