JERUSALEM (JTA) – Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James, was released from prison after serving a one-year sentence for bribery.
Pinto, 43, was freed Wednesday from Nitzan Prison, where he served his time in the medical center. He has cancer and is in poor health.
His appeal to reduce the prison sentence to community service was denied one year ago by Israel’s Supreme Court.
In a plea deal finalized in April 2015, he pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice in his effort to acquire information in another investigation about him. Pinto, the head of several charity organizations and yeshivas in Ashdod, in southern Israel, and in the United States, agreed to provide evidence that he bribed a senior police official.
Pinto committed to continue therapy after prison, Ynet reported. He reportedly was a well-behaved prisoner.
“I feel like a criminal,” Pinto said in a meeting with the parole board, Ynet reported. “Several people left religion because they saw a rabbi give a bribe. I live in constant fear. I retired from public life and I am not a rabbi until I feel that I am worthy, and that definitely won’t happen in the next year or two. I was serious when I said I made a mistake.”
Prosecutors reportedly believe he is at risk to return to his illegal ways.
Pinto built a lucrative nonprofit network and a devoted following based on his teachings derived from the kabbalah. Prominent Israelis, politicians, businessmen and sports figures have sought counsel from Pinto on business and personal matters. Along with James, an NBA superstar, they include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, businessman Jay Schottenstein and Israeli soccer star Guy Levy.
Pinto is the great-grandson of the well-known Morocco-born mystic known as the Baba Sali.