Rabbis arrested in N.J. sting

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Several rabbis were arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey.

According to reports, among the 44 people arrested Thursday morning by the FBI along with the rabbis were the mayors of three New Jersey towns, a deputy mayor and a state assemblyman. They were to appear in federal court in Newark later in the day.

The money-laundering suspects were accused of moving “at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, nonprofit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey,” according to a release by acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.

Prosecutors said they worked with an informant who had been charged with bank fraud in May 2006, Bloomberg.com said. Investigators obtained hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, according to prosecutors.

The rabbis arrested were religious leaders from Syrian Jewish neighborhoods in Deal and Elberon, N.J., as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. The Asbury Park Press reported that the investigation involved the Deal Yeshiva, a Sephardic institution that has a boys’ division in Ocean Township and a girls’ school in West Long Branch.

The arrests reportedly are the result of a two-year probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service that began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in Deal and Brooklyn, two tight-knit and wealthy communities.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the IRS removed at least three boxes from the Deal Yeshiva as students were arriving at school Thursday, The Star-Ledger reported, as well as several boxes from the Ohel Yaacob synagogue in the same town.

The charged rabbis include Rabbi Saul Kassin, 87, of the Sharee Zion synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal; Edmond Nahum, 56, of the Deal Synagogue; Mordchai Fish, 56, of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn; and Lavel Schwartz, 57, Fish’s brother. They were charged with money laundering.

Kassin is accused of laundering more than $200,000 through the informant from June 2007 through December 2008, according to prosecutors. Fish, Schwartz and two other defendants used a charitable, tax-exempt organization called BCG, which was associated with Fish’s synagogue, to launder money, according to the FBI.

The mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, the deputy mayor of Jersey City and an assemblyman from Ocean Township were caught in the operation.

Also charged is Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, 58, of Brooklyn, who was accused of conspiring with others to acquire and trade human organs for use in transplantation. In one case noted in the complaint, Rosenbaum said it would cost $150,000 — half up front. Rosenbaum said some of the money would go to the donor and some to doctors in Israel, according to the complaint.

Bloomberg  identified the cooperating witness as Solomon Dwek, a real estate developer in Monmouth County, N.J. who was charged in 2006 with scheming to defraud PNC Bank out of $50 million, according to a person familiar with the matter and court records. Dwek was never indicted; he has received 17 extensions to continue the period in which his case had to be presented to a federal grand jury.

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