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PR firm faces scrutiny

A fraudulent comment appears to have been posted to the JTA Web site from the home of an executive with the PR firm representing Agriprocessors.

The firm, 5WPR, is accused of making fraudulent postings to several Web sites in the name of Morris Allen, a Conservative rabbi and leading critic of Agriprocessors, the country’s largest kosher meat producer.

Two of the postings appeared at FailedMessiah.com, a blog that is highly critical of Agriprocessors. The blog, operated by Shmarya Rosenberg, reported Wednesday that the two comments in Allen’s name came from Web, or Internet Protocol, addresses registered to 5WPR; later in the day the blog quoted the 5WPR executive handling the Agriprocessors account, Juda Engelmayer, as saying he had been unaware of the fraudulent postings and blaming them on an intern.

A separate comment purporting to be from Allen was posted Tuesday night at 9:51 p.m. to an article on the JTA Web site about Agriprocessors. It came from the same IP address as an e-mail that Engelmayer sent 10 minutes earlier to two JTA employees. That IP address – which is different from the one that FailedMessiah’s Rosenberg tied to 5WPR’s offices – is a residential consumer Internet connection on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where Engelmayer lives.

A person identifying himself as the intern in question called JTA on Thursday, but refused to provide a full name. The caller said that he posted the fraudulent comment to the JTA site using a computer at Engelmayer’s apartment during a get-together there Tuesday night, but without Engelmayer’s knowledge.

Engelmayer declined to comment.

Ronn Torossian, 5WPR’s founder and president, told JTA the company was conducting an internal investigation.

Several of the fraudulent comments portrayed Allen as being motivated by a desire to promote the interests of Hekhsher Tzedek and the Conservative movement rather than finding out the truth about Agriprocessors and seeing the company make improvements.

Allen told JTA that he did not leave any of the comments and may pursue legal action against 5WPR.

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