Menachem "Max" Stark was a Satmar chasid. He was also a slumlord and involved with disreputable types and bad loans. These associations cost him his life a little over a month ago after he was found murdered. So nasty was his business life that, according to the New York press, it was hard for the police to narrow down the list of possible suspects to a reasonable number.
What made people sit up and pay attention, however, was the way in which The New York Post presented the story. Under the headlines and the question "Who didn't want him dead?" was a picture of Stark dressed in full Satmar regalia. This caused some to scream "Anti-semitism" but really it posed a far more difficult problem.
Not knowing Stark I'm conjecturing but I think that the picture of him dressed as a chasid, a pious Jew, is exactly how he would want to be portrayed. It's probably how he saw himself.
One could ask how a man reputed to be guilty of all sorts of financial and landlord-related offences could come to think that way. How is it that one could be so reputedly vile when it came to one's business dealings but still portray oneself as a pious individual?
If you point out that a person with no conscience would have no problem doing such a thing you'd be right so I'll take it to the next level. The funeral Stark was given, complete with the local Satmar rebbe (remember there's a couple of 'em) crying over his coffin and at the shiva was worthy of a hero, not a scumbag who'd pushed another scumbag too far and paid for it.
Yes Italian mafiosos get state funerals with the local clerics eulogizing them as heroes and champions of the community. But the Satmar rebbe with his self-righteous indignation over any perceived violation of "Toyrah" he sees? Here's a man who thinks the existence of the state of Israel is an abomination. If you're a Zionist you're scum to him but if you're a thief and oppressor of the poor you're fine? Isn't Judaism supposed to be different than that?
Now when it comes to mafiosos the reason for the high honours at burial is obvious: fear. Who wants to be caught disrespecting a man with a mob at his beck and call? What priest is going to stand up and say "No way I'm gonna do his funeral! The man was a murderer and a thief"?
With Stark such considerations were not relevant. Yes he was entitled to a kever Yisrael like any other Jew but why the high kovod?
I would suggest it's because, from the Satmar perspective Menachem Stark was, in fact, a completely righteous man. He wore the right clothes and headgear. He swayed the right way during prayer. I don't doubt that his Yiddish was acceptable and that every time he saw an Israeli flag he spit on the ground in disgust. He did his "learning", ate only the most mehadrin foods and all his meat was Satmar-style shechita.
That he threw out most of Choshen Mishpat in his business dealings was simply not part of the equation.
As I noted in the previous post we have, after 1942 years of golus, compartmentalized Judaism into the parts we still do, which is mostly ritual, and the parts we don't, which is pretty much everything else. Yes, the Shulchan Aruch has four sections but there's a Mishnah Berurah only on Orach Chaim which gives people the impression it's the only part that matters other than some areas of Yoreh Deah one can't avoid like kashrus and taharas hamishpacha. The rest is a closed book to most Orthodox folk, especially Choshen Mishpat where the laws of financial crimes are encoded.
Menachem Stark ignored Choshen Mishpat, something only the greatest of scholars learn. The average person has no idea what's in that volume and in this case ignorance is bliss. If you have no clue you're sinning you can't see yourself as not righteous, can you?
So once again we see the same pattern: Stark was ritually correct. His actual sins didn't count because of that. For his friends and the Satmar rebbe he was a better Jew than a Dati Leumi guy who is completely honestly in business because the Dati Leumi ritual is despised by Satmar.
It is a twisted mindset where how you dress and what poltical/religious views you espouse define your piety.