P.I. On Dohenny's

For investigator, exposing kosher meat fraud was a ‘mitzvah.’

04/10/13
JTA
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Los Angeles — A semi-automatic weapon sits propped beside the front door of the ranch-style home that Eric Agaki shares with his wife, a couple of goats, some chickens and a horse. Only it’s not the real thing.

“That’s an air gun for raccoons,” Agaki says. “For intruders I’ve got other things.”

Agaki, 41, is particularly concerned with home security, and with good reason. A private investigator for the past 10 years, Agaki has put murderers in jail and staked out hundreds of spouses suspected of extramarital affairs.

Most recently, he exposed the unkosher business practices of the Doheny Glatt Kosher Meat Market, one of this city’s largest purveyors of kosher meats.

Days before Passover, Agaki showed a group of Los Angeles rabbis the video he shot of Michael Engelman, Doheny’s owner, loading boxes of meat into the trunk of a sport-utility vehicle in a McDonald’s parking lot. A second video showed Engelman at his store in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood, where a worker carried the boxes inside. The mashgiach, or kosher supervisor, was nowhere in sight.

As a result of Agaki’s seven-month investigation, the Rabbinic Council of California revoked Doheny Market’s kosher certification on March 24. The following day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched an investigation. Within a week, Engelman sold his shop to businessman Shlomo Rechnitz.

All of this happened because of Agaki, though the investigator has not been paid a dime.

“I decided to do it as a mitzvah,” he says.

Born in Israel to Persian Jewish parents, Agaki moved to L.A. at age 12. He never served in the Israeli army, but he has more than a decade of training in the Israeli hand-to-hand combat method known as Krav Maga. His height may not intimidate, but his thick torso and massive biceps would be enough to ward off many threats. As would the Kahr CW9 handgun he carries at all times.

“I’m licensed to carry an exposed gun,” he says, pulling back his shirt to reveal a silver 9mm pistol tucked into a brown leather holster.

In September, a group of rabbis approached him with a host of rumors that Engelman was up to no good. Agaki clocked more than 150 hours of work on the case.

“Just the hours I put in, without all the research, is close to $20,000,” he says.

This is the case of which he feels most proud, however.

“I’ve put a murderer behind bars,” he says. “But this had an impact on a lot of people.”

editor@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

05/01/2013 - 11:37

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