Sholam Weiss

Unprecedented Prison

Sentence - 835 Years

sentencing comparison map
Sholam Weiss prison

Sholam Weiss was found guilty on a white-collar crime and is serving the longest unprecedented prison sentence of  835 years without parole.  Despite the fact that Sholam Weiss was found guilty, the crime clearly does not justify the sentence which he has received, his sentence significantly diverges from both federal and state sentences for similar white-collar crimes.   


Comparing the length of Sholam Weiss sentence to  the sentence of other white-collar criminals, demonstrate that Sholam Weiss’s sentence is exceedingly harsh, especially in light of the background and nature of his criminal case, including evidence that his actions did not result in any losses to National Heritage, and he clearly did not commit the worst white-collar crime.  He was found guilty of helping others conceal a crime which he did not commit.  The 18-year sentence that Sholam Weiss has already served far exceeds the sentences of co-defendants and other defendants who played a larger role in the same criminal case.   


Changes in the sentencing guidelines just a few months after Sholam Weiss was sentenced, If re-sentenced today, Sholam Weiss would most likely be sentenced to a range of 30-37 months for the same crime (Read more), a sentence Mr. Weiss has already served six times over.







All of Sholam Weiss’ co-defendants are either dead or released from prison.  According to the Bureau of Prisons website, Jan Star was released on January 1, 2005; Jan Schneiderman was released on February 23, 2011, and Keith Pound is designated as deceased as of July 7, 2003.

​Patrick Smythe, Michael Blutrich, and Lyle Pfeffer were the primary contributors to the insurance company’s financial ruin.

Smythe, Pfeffer, and  Blutrich – the original organizers of the scheme and the architects of all that occurred – pleaded guilty to racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, and wire fraud.  Smythe also pleaded guilty to tax evasion.  Despite their principal responsibility for the fraud, Smythe, who was convicted of 90 criminal counts, received a reduced sentence of 150 months for his cooperation.  Read more



Sholam Weiss is serving an 835-year prison sentence for his role in a fraudulent scheme that caused no actual loss to National Heritage.  As stated in History, at the time of sentencing, the Receiver recovered 65 million dollars (See. PSR 74 ), and much more have been recovered since that time, resulting in no actual loss, but a profit.  By contrast, Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced in June 2013 to 14 years for his role in a fraudulent scheme that caused Enron victims a loss in excess of seven billion dollars.  Sholam Weiss' sentence is nearly 60 times longer than Mr. Skilling's despite the fact that the $125 million dollars intended loss estimate is less than 2% of the actual loss in Enron.  Thus Sholam Weiss received a sentence that was 3600 times greater per dollar loss than Skilling.    Read more



Due to changes in the sentencing guidelines, Weiss would receive today a maximum prison sentence  of 37-month for the same crime committed which he was charge in 2000, a sentencing disparity of 841 years



Sentencing Sholam Weiss in 2000

During sentencing, the district court found that Sholam Weiss was personally responsible for money laundering involving $100 million, with “losses or intended losses” of $125 million to National Heritage.  Restitution, based on the losses, was set at $125 million and he was sentenced to  845 based on the mandatory sentencing guidelines.  (See, the United States v. Booker)  Read more



Year Sentence


Months if sentenced today


Years for the government to turn over discovery documents


Dollars lost due to Weiss's 


National Heritage

Story of the National Heritage Financial Collapse

In late 1989 National Heritage Life Insurance Company reported an operating loss and 27% reduction of capital from a decline of sales (see Anatomy of Failure by sally Whitner) , and in 1990 insurance regulators threatened to shut down the company if it did not raise additional capital. A group of investors offered $4 million to satisfy regulators, in exchange for a controlling interest in National Heritage (See, NY Times article Aug 30,1998).  The group provided a $4 million check, but once in control of National Heritage, transferred $3 million from National Heritage to help cover the check. This began a long series of schemes in which millions were stolen from National Heritage by the group of investors. Bad investments further depleted National Heritage capital.



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Sholam Weiss

Sholam Weiss is the son of Auschwitz Holocaust survivors. After the war, his parents immigrated to the United States, where his father owned and operated a fruit store in Brooklyn, New York to support nine children. Mr. Weiss was raised in an orthodox Jewish community, and received no formal education other than religious schooling. Upon his graduation at the Yeshivah, he worked as a small general contractor, and in 1974 bought a plumbing supply company.

After the recession of 1990 , Sholam Weiss became a financial consultant and came to work with various individuals in the financial world, primarily in the Jewish community.

In 1993 Sholam Weiss was contacted by a high profile New York  attorney Micheal Bultrich and businessman Lyle K. Pfeffer,  members of the National Heritage Life Insurance Company.  Blutrich and Pfeffer told Weiss that NHLC  was having financial problems due to bad investments. they asked Weiss if he could raise capital for NHLC and if Weiss could help with any financial investment to but NHLC on a profitable path.  

Seizing the opportunity as a lucrative investment, Mr. Weiss offered to invest $20 million of his own assets in exchange for preferred stock in National Heritage.  He also proposed that his company, South Star, purchase discounted mortgages on behalf of National Heritage, and service them to full value to increase NHLC profit.  He believed that this would raise enough money to get National Heritage back into financial health   Read more....​