For $60K, the court can arrange to "persuade" the husband to give his wife a "get" (consent to divorce) with the aid of kidnapping, torture and terror. (A simliar situation was portrayed in an episode of the Sopranos.) This is just crazy.http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/10/2_rabbis_4_others_charged_in_divorce_shakedown.html2 rabbis, 2 others charged in Jewish divorce shakedown
US Attorney and FBI speak about Jewish divorce shakedown case US Attorney Paul Fishman and Special Agent in Charge Aaron Ted Sherman/The Star-Ledger By Ted Sherman/The Star-Ledger
on October 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM, updated October 10, 2013 at 6:48 PM
TRENTON — In a bizarre case involving threats of kidnapping, beatings and physical torture — including the use of an electric cattle prod— two rabbis were charged in New Jersey on Wednesday in a scheme to force men to grant their wives religious divorces.
Two others were also charged in the case, which grew out of an undercover sting operation involving a female FBI agent who posed as a member of the Orthodox community seeking a divorce.
As many as six others may also be charged, officials said.
Sources say the investigation was sparked by a similar case in 2011, when David Wax, a 49-year-old rabbi and Talmudic scholar from Lakewood, and his wife, Judy, were charged with kidnapping and severely beating an Israeli man who had refused to give his wife a divorce. That case has been repeatedly adjourned for months—a sign of possible cooperation.
According to the FBI, most of those being charged today were arrested last night after a meeting at an undisclosed warehouse in Middlesex County, as the group gathered to launch the kidnapping plan. The rabbis were arrested at their homes. Many of the still unnamed defendants had been recruited as the muscle of the operation, sources said.
Initially charged were Rabbis Mendel Epstein, 68, and Martin Wolmark, 55, Ariel Potash, 40, and a fourth individual only identified as “Yaakov.” All four are due to appear in U.S. District Court in Trenton later today.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed this morning, the four are accused of charging families thousands of dollars to get recalcitrant husbands to agree to divorces, frequently through means of violence.
Under Jewish law, a woman may not sue for divorce in a rabbinical court unless her husband agrees to provide his wife with a document known as a “get.”
While a divorce may only be initiated by the husband, a wife has the right to sue for divorce in rabbinical court, known as a “beth din,” which may order the husband to issue the get. If he refuses, he may be subjected to various penalties to pressure him to consenting to the divorce. Without a "get," a woman can end up in limbo for years, unable to remarry.
According to the complaint, the four men— for a price— were willing to provide “convincing” by any means possible.
In one recorded meeting, Epstein spoke about kidnapping, beating and torturing husbands to in order to force a divorce, according to the complaint.
“Ya know, this is an expensive thing to do,” he said on a surveillance recording. “It’s not simply…basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get.”
One of his tools of persuasion, he said, was an electric cattle prod.
“If it can get a bull that weights five tons to move…You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know,” Epstein said, in one of the conversations with the undercover agent.
Epstein is a well-known in the Orthodox community as a divorce mediator. One tape, though, he admitted to committing similar kidnappings at least once a year.
“Basically the reaction of the police is, if the guy does not have a mark on him…then, uh, is there some Jewish crazy affair here, and they don’t get involved,” he said, according to the complaint.
The cost was not cheap. The complaint said $10,000 went to pay for the rabbis on the rabbinical court, to approve the kidnapping. They charged an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to pay for the “tough guys” who would do the rough stuff.
According to the court filing, Wolmark and Epstein were first contacted by the undercover agent in August, and met with her and another undercover agent who posed as her brother, at Epstein’s home in Ocean County. Records show Epstein has homes in Lakewood and Brooklyn.
She told them she was desperate for a divorce because her purported husband refused to have children.
Walmark, according to the complaint, connected her with Epstein.
“You need to get him to New York where someone either can harass him or nail him. Plain and simple,” he said on a recorded phone call with the agent.
Potash’s role in the plan, according to the complaint, was to act as the “shliah,” the person appointed to serve as the wive’s agent to accept the “get.”
Last month, several of those charged drove to the warehouse in Middlesex County to determine if it was suitable for the kidnapping. In a graphic conversation, Epstein talked about the use not only of cattle prods, but handcuffs and other measures to be taken by hired enforcers after a reluctant husband was forced into a van and physically worked over.
“I guarantee you that if you’re in the van, you’d give a ‘get” to your wife,” he told the undercover agent posing as the woman’s brother.. “You probably love your wife, but you’d give a get when they finish with you.”
The agent posing as the brother agreed to wire $20,000 as an initial deposit to Epstein. The rabbi told him it would not take long to do the job.
“They don’t need him for long, believe me. They’ll have him in the van, hooded, and it will happen,” he said.
The arrests were accompanied by a series of searches executed by the FBI in Lakewood, Monsey, Brooklyn and elsewhere, including Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in the Monsey section of Ramapo, N.Y.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark has no immediate comment.
But sources said the investigation grew out of the still pending 2011 case of David Wax.
According to court filings in that case, the alleged victim took a bus on Oct. 16, 2010 from New York to Lakewood, believing he was going to work with David Wax on Talmudic books the rabbi was writing. When he arrived at the rabbi’s home around midnight, he said two unidentified men pummeled him, handcuffed him, blindfolded him and bound his legs and arms, placing him face-down on the bedroom floor.
The complaint in the case said Wax demanded the victim grant his wife a "get" and not seek custody of his children. He then allegedly pulled out a dark-colored body bag and placed it over the victim.
"Get used to the size," he said, according to the complaint, telling his captive that if he didn't comply, he'd be buried in the Pocono Mountains.
The case has been repeatedly adjourned by U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert in Trenton, who has been assigned to the initial appearances of all those charged in today's matter.
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