(JTA) — A 31-year-old man was sentenced to four to five years in prison for extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Boston-area rabbi who was having an affair with a male teenager.
Nicholas Zemeitus, who pleaded guilty last month to extortion and larceny for blackmailing Rabbi Barry Starr of Sharon, Massachusetts, also will face three years of probation after he is released from prison, the Boston Globe reported. He was sentenced on Friday.
Zemeitus, who is from the Boston area, had threatened to expose Starr’s two-year affair with a 16-year-old male unless he was paid by the rabbi. Starr resigned a year and a half ago from Temple Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Sharon.
Starr allegedly paid Zemeitus nearly half a million dollars — taken from synagogue funds and borrowed from his congregants. Much of the money came from the rabbi’s discretionary fund, including checks altered by the rabbi. Starr also borrowed thousands of dollars from an elderly congregant, a Holocaust survivor.
Zemeitus claimed to be the older brother of the teen, who was 18 when the affair ended.
Zemeitus said he met the rabbi on Craigslist and then met Starr at his home after an exchange of emails.
Authorities have found no evidence that Starr had sex with minors, according to the Globe. Starr was charged last year with larceny and embezzlement. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Starr, a married father of two, is credited with expanding the congregation he served for 28 years to over 600 families. He has served on the Rabbinic Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary and as president of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, as well as the region’s Rabbinical Assembly.