(JTA) — A New York personal trainer pleaded guilty to being part of a group of men who used violent means in exchange for pay to force Jewish husbands to give their wives religious divorces.
David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty on March 7 in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined $250,000 at his June 12 sentencing hearing.
Nine other men, including two Orthodox rabbis, were arrested last October as part of an FBI sting operation. The ring charged some $60,000 for its services.
According to a complaint filed in court, the men kidnapped and beat up recalcitrant husbands until they agreed to the religious divorce.
Hellman was charged with “traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion,” and the others were charged with kidnapping, Reuters reported, citing court documents.
Orthodox Jewish women cannot remarry without a get, or writ of divorce, granted by a rabbinical court, which requires the husband’s consent. Some husbands, and wives, withhold a get in order to gain more favorable terms for alimony or custody of children.