As FailedMessiah.com was the first to report last night, the FBI, often
in conjunction with local law enforcement, staged raids in Brooklyn and
Monsey on homes, synagogues and yeshivas belonging to haredi rabbis,
making at least four arrests and detaining as many as six other people in a Jewish divorce extortion and kidnap ring.
Arrests In Brooklyn, Monsey Over Get Extortion
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
As FailedMessiah.com was the first to report last night, the FBI, often in conjunction with local law enforcement, staged raids in Brooklyn and Monsey on homes, synagogues and yeshivas belonging to haredi rabbis.
It confiscated equipment and records.
And now we know it also made four arrests and detained as many as six other people.
In the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, the target was Rabbi Mendel Epstein who, multiple sources told FailedMessiah.com last night, was arrested at approximately 8:43 pm.
In Monsey the main target was Rabbi Martin "Mordechai" Wolmark and Yeshiva Shaarei Torah on Carlton Road.
According to a report today on the Journal News website, at least one additional raid was staged in New Jersey.
ABC News 7 reports that Rabbi Mendel Epstein, Rabbi Martin Wolmark, Rabbi Jacob Goldstein and Ariel Potash were arrested and will be formally charged. As many as six others people were also taken into in custody but may not be charged.
That raid was most likely in Lakewood, home to the largest haredi yeshiva outside of Israel, Beth Medrash Govoha.
The raids and arrests are part of an ongoing investigation into extortion (and, perhaps, money laundering) centered around get (Jewish divorce) extortion.
The investigation is apparently based at the FBI's Newark, New Jersey headquarters.
Epstein, Wolmark and other several other haredi rabbis – allegedly including Rabbi Yisroel Belsky from Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and the Orthodox Union's kosher certification arm – use kidnapping, violence, threats of violence and other illegally coercive methods to force recalcitrant husbands to grant Jewish divorces to their wives who would otherwise be left agunot ("chained;" meaning they would be unable to marry another man or have sexual relations with another man for the rest of their lives – unless the Jewish divorce is granted by the husband).
At least one haredi man previously he was kidnapped by haredim working with this group, beaten and extorted.
However, Epstein – who portrays himself as a champion women – allegedly also helps husbands launder money and hide their assets from their ex- (or soon to be ex-) wives.
ABC News 7 reports that the FBI's investigation shows that for at least the past 20 years, many agunot paid $100,000 each to Epstein and the other haredi rabbis. In exchange, Epstein and the other haredi rabbis would coerce the husband to grant a Jewish divorce, "frequently by hiring armed thugs kidnap the husbands and beat them until they agreed."