For three years, yeshiva student Nathan Levi was hailed by his peers and superiors at the Etz Haim congregation in Lakewood, New Jersey as a brilliant Torah scholar.
But this week the man so many thought was an upstanding religious Jewish man was revealed to be a convicted criminal hiding from law enforcement authorities under a false identity – and religion.
The 34-year-old Levy, whose real name is Ted Riley Floyd, contacted members of the American 'Torah' organization, which helps Jews back into the religious fold, and presented himself as Nathan Levy, a secular Jew interested in reconnecting with Judaism.
The organization quickly found a place for 'Levy,' along with his wife and four children, in the closed-off ultra-Orthodox community in Forest Park, Lakewood.
Community members welcomed Floyd and his family with open arms and open checkbooks, offering to pay tuition fees for his children.
"We saw it as a great mitzvah," said one of the women who knew the family. "We cooked Shabbat dinner for them and opened our doors and hearts to them so that they could become a Kosher Jewish family."
And they did. Floyd established himself in the yeshiva as a studious young man, who one of the rabbis described as "sharp, clever and witty." In fact it wasn't long before Floyd was promoted to be a teacher's aid in the yeshiva.
But last month the hoax came to an end. Federal officers arrested Floyd in his Lakewood home and revealed to his many friends in the community that 'Nathan Levy' is actually a con-artist with a knack for
adopting the identities of deceased persons and carrying out various schemes under their names.
But then three years ago he felt the walls closing in on him and fled to the small Jewish community where his anonymity seemed guaranteed.
Floyd's case goes to trial next month and Lakewood's Jews say they still can't believe the man they knew is a convicted criminal, and, what's more says a local rabbi, "he isn't even Jewish."