Lakewood

‘Could’ve killed someone’: New details emerge in arrest of Lakewood philanthropist Moshe Tress

Using his property as a private shooting range, the Haredi donor and activist shocked neighbors after a bullet from his gun hit an area where a child had been playing

Moshe Tress inside a police vehicle, in a still from police dash cam footage

Jan 31, 2024 4:15 PM

Updated: 

New details have emerged regarding Moshe Tress, a prominent Haredi philanthropist, who had been shooting an assault rifle on his New Jersey property with three other men before he was arrested by the Jackson Township police last November.

“You guys very easily could’ve killed someone,” a police officer told Tress and the other men, according to body camera footage newly obtained by Shtetl from Jackson Township. “Your buddies over here are chuckling it off,” the officer told Tress. “This was a batshit idea, horribly unsafe.”

Moshe Tress inside a police vehicle, in a still from police dash cam footage

Tress, a 49-year-old real estate magnate who also goes by the name Mark, was charged with five crimes: possession of an assault firearm, possession of a sawed-off shotgun, possession of a large capacity ammunition magazine, criminal mischief, and risking widespread injury or damage. Police seized six guns from Tress, including an AR-15.

Tress told the police that he purchased at least one of the guns from Tom Buresch, who owns the New Jersey-based firearm dealer Liberty Arms LLC. Buresch is also a code enforcement officer who works for Jackson Township. Tress referred to a conversation he’d had with Buresch that led him to believe his actions were legal.

In the newly obtained footage, a police office is heard saying, “The property owner is under the assumption that he can go ahead and do this because he bought the gun from some bigwig, I guess.”

Reached by phone, Buresch declined to discuss the matter.

Guns seen on the ground, in a still from police body cam footage

The property on Toms River Road, which Tress told the officer he had purchased recently, was sold for $915,000 in October in the name of Elimelech Tress, according to government records. Tress shot the gun into a barn in the direction of a nearby county highway.

Tress told police he believed the bullet wouldn’t make it through the layers of wood in the barn, but acknowledged his thinking was flawed.

“We were wrong,” Tress told the officer. “We thought there’s enough wood over there.”

The police officer counted five exit holes in the back of the barn, showing that some bullets passed through all the layers of wood. The officer said that even if Tress had had a “berm,” a barrier used at shooting ranges to block bullets, it would’ve still been illegal to shoot on the property, as it is too small.

As seen in the footage, police officers found a hole in a mailbox of Tress’s neighbor, but were unable to determine whether the hole was caused by Tress’s shooting. However, the warrant for Tress’s arrest claimed that the mailbox was struck by Tress’s gunfire.

“I’m just blown away at the fact that something from all the way over there could’ve potentially killed my kid,” the owner of the mailbox told an officer. “I’m not OK with that. My daughter was outside all day today.”

As Shtetl previously reported, Tress’ lawyer, William Cunningham, commented in court that while his client exercised flawed judgment in this case, he was otherwise an upstanding citizen: “This gentleman has never been in trouble in his life, and it was more misadventure and recklessness than anything intentional.”

Tress owns the company Cedar Holdings LLC, which owns real estate and health care facilities in several states. He has helped raise funds for various causes in Lakewood’s Haredi community, and has worked closely with Agudath Israel, an organization that lobbies for Haredi interests. In 2018, Tress helped create a pool of funds for families who owed money to the government after 26 Lakewood residents were arrested for committing Medicaid fraud.

Reached by phone, Tress did not provide comment for this article.

Lauren Hakimi is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Forward, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, New York Jewish Week, WNYC/Gothamist and more. She graduated from CUNY Hunter College with degrees in history and English literature. Hailing from an Iranian Jewish community on Long Island, she looks forward to shining a light on stories that matter to the Jewish community. Follow her on Twitter @lauren_hakimi.