A former fundraiser for Republican Congressman Michael G. Grimm (Staten Island, NY) has pleaded guilty to visa fraud. Ofer Biton brought Grimm hundreds of thousands of dollars from supporters of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a Sefardi ‘kabbalist’ who is currently under serious criminal investigation in Israel for money laundering, fraud, bribery and related crimes that include stealing charity donations meant for Holocaust survivors.
Updated 11:16 am CDT
Former Aide To Sefardi ‘Kabbalist’ Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto Pleads Guilty To Immigration Fraud
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
A former fundraiser for Republican Congressman Michael G. Grimm (Staten Island, NY) has pleaded guilty to visa fraud, the New York Times reported.
Ofer Biton, an Israeli immigrant, brought Grimm hundreds of thousands of dollars from supporters of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a Sefardi ‘kabbalist’ who is currently under serious criminal investigation in Israel for money laundering, fraud, bribery and related crimes. In a related civil case, one of Pinto’s charities was caught taking large-scale food donations meant for Holocaust survivors and instead selling truckloads of the food to brokers who sold the food to stores and institutions on Israel’s gray market. The charity’s heads pocketed the cash, some of which was apparently used to support Pinto’s lavish lifestyle.
Pinto, who also has institutions in New York City and who lives there part of the year, is also allegedly under criminal investigation in the US for fraud and related charges.
Biton was a chief aide to Pinto in the US before a falling out with Pinto about two years ago. He was arrested in August 2011 on the immigration charges but is also under criminal investigation for alleged violation of campaign finance laws. Initial reports of that investigation linked Biton’s alleged criminal conduct with the CEO and founder of 5WPR, Ronn Torossian. Pinto’s current aides allege the pair embezzled millions of dollars from Pinto’s charities and extorted money from Pinto and others. Torossian denies all wrongdoing.
Followers of Pinto told the New York Times that either Grimm or Biton told them that Grimm’s campaign would take donations that were over the legal limit, or were larger than $100 and given in cash, or were given by non-US citizens who did not have the legal status required to contribute to a federal political campaign.
Late last year, federal prosecutors told the Times that they believed they would be able to charge Biton with extortion and money laundering, but no such charges have yet been filed – perhaps, some allege, because the primary target of the criminal investigation is the congressman, and a cooperating witness against him would not necessarily be charged until after Grimm’s arrest.
Grimm has not yet been charged with any crime and strongly maintains his innocence.
On Friday, Biton was reportedly barely audible as he told the judge that he had lied on his visa application.
“I know it was wrong,” Biton said.
Biton's plea agreement reportedly calls for a sentence of three years probation.