International haredi money laundering network alleged to have used haredi charities to wash dirty money.
JWB's list of Jewish community members charged, compiled from the indictments:
1) Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity
2) Rabbi Saul Kassin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.
3) Rabbi Edmund Nahum, of Deal, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.
4) Rabbi Mordchai Fish, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. His brother, also a rabbi, was charged as well.
5) Rabbi Lavel Schwartz (Fish's brother)
6) Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, with conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant
7) Levi Deutsch, an Israeli living in Israel.
8) Moshe "Michael" Altman, a Hudson County real estate developer.
9) Charles "Shaul" Amon, previously worked for the cooperating witness managing properties in Lakewood. Amon aided in the Lakewood payoff scheme by introducing Williamson to the cooperating witness. Amon described how he had previously made payoffs to Williamson to go light on housing inspections.
10) Arye Weiss - operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
11) Yeshayahu Ehrental- operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
12) Schmulik Cohen - operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $850,000 in cash.
13) Binyomin Spira - operated a cash house from a bakery in Brooklyn in which he received cash from Levi Deutsch and supplied cash for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $200,000 in cash
14) Yolie Gertner - acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $185,000 in cash
15) David Goldhirsh - acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $100,000 in cash
16) Abe Pollack - operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Naftoly Weber) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash
17) Naftoly Weber - operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Abe Pollack) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash.
18) Shimon Haber
19) Itzak Friedlander
3 NJ mayors, lawmakers arrested in corruption case
By DAVID PORTER (AP) – 11 minutes ago
NEWARK, N.J. — The mayors of three New Jersey cities, two state legislators and several rabbis were among more than 40 people arrested Thursday in a sweeping corruption investigation that began as a probe into an international money laundering ring that trafficked in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags.
Among 44 people arrested Thursday were Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, state Assemblyman President L. Harvey Smith and state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, who is also an attorney, is charged with agreeing to accept an illegal $10,000 cash payment for his legal defense fund.
Gov. Jon Corzine reacted to the corruption probe Thursday morning by saying, "any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."
In separate money laundering complaints, several rabbis from Brooklyn and New Jersey were charged with offenses ranging from the trafficking of kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags.
Van Pelt is accused of accepting $10,000 from a cooperating government witness posing as a developer who sought help in getting permits for a project in Ocean County.
Smith, the Jersey City Council President, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals.
Beldini, 74, is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion by taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said Thursday the charges were "a little shocking."
"I have full faith in Leona," Healy said. "She's a good friend of mine — was and will be."
Cammarano, 32, who won a runoff election last month, is charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness. Elwell is charged with taking $10,000.
Joseph Hayden, an attorney representing Cammarano, said his client "is innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the investigation initially focused, with the help of the cooperating witness, on the money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, Deal, N.J. and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said he has heard of the story but knows nothing of kidneys being sold by Israelis.
The investigation widened to include official corruption in July 2007 when the cooperating witness approached public officials in Hudson County posing as a developer seeking to build in the Jersey City area.
Hoboken's waterfront has proven to be an especially lucrative piece of real estate across from midtown Manhattan. Developers have put up dozens of buildings in the last 15 years in the mile-square city. It had a prime view on July 4 of fireworks over the Hudson River.
The fears that the city was being overdeveloped has become a hot topic during elections among candidates.
In secretly recorded conversations outlined in the complaint against Cammarano, the candidate made it clear to prospective campaign donors that he was a friend of developers.
When a cooperating witness posing as a developer who was donating $5,000 to the campaign told Cammarano just days before the mayoral election that he wanted to make sure he had his support with "some properties we're working on," Cammarano is quoted as saying, "I'll be there."
In Deal, Mike Winnick of the Elberon section of Long Branch was praying inside the Deal Synagogue when it was raided by FBI, IRS and Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office agents.
"Everyone was looking at each other, like, `What's going on here?' " he said.
Winnick said four FBI agents escorted a rabbi from the synagogue into his office and blocked the doorway.
Winnick said he left shortly afterward.
Nearby, FBI and IRS agents removed several boxes from the Deal Yeshiva, a school that educates the children of Sephardic Jews.
Busloads carrying those arrested were brought to the FBI's Newark field office Thursday morning. One agent slowly walked an elderly rabbi into the building as another covered his face with a felt hat.
Angela Delli Santi and Beth DeFalco in Trenton, Wayne Parry in Deal, Samantha Henry and Victor Epstein in Newark and Larry Neumeister in New York contributed to this story.
Here is the Department of Justice press release. (Thank you to JWB for this and other links today.)
|wo-Track Investigation of Political Corruption and International Money Laundering Rings Net 44 Individuals|
|Posted on : 2009-07-23 | Author : U.S. Department of Justice |
News Category : PressRelease
NEWARK, N.J., July 23 DOJ-NJ-corruption
FBI Arrests Mayors, Assemblymen, Political Operatives, Rabbis
NEWARK, N.J., July 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, the Jersey City deputy mayor and council president, two state assemblymen, numerous other public officials and political figures and five rabbis from New York and New Jersey were among 44 individuals charged today in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high-volume, international money laundering conspiracy, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced.
Among those charged in criminal Complaints are:
Most of the defendants were arrested early this morning by a large contingent of federal agents, led by Special Agents of the FBI Newark Division and IRS Criminal Investigation Division (See addendum of defendants, charges and arrest status). Court-authorized search warrants were also being executed at approximately 20 locations in New Jersey and New York, to recover, among other things, large sums of cash and other evidence of criminal conduct. Additionally, 28 seizure warrants were being executed against bank accounts in the names of the money laundering defendants and entities they control.
One criminal Complaint charges a Brooklyn man, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, with conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant, at a cost of $160,000 to the transplant recipient. According to the Complaint, Rosenbaum said he had been brokering the sale of kidneys for 10 years.
Those charged in the public corruption investigation are scheduled to begin making appearances today in federal court in Newark at 2 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. Those charged in the money laundering investigation, are scheduled to begin making initial appearances thereafter before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk.
Law enforcement personnel, with the assistance of a cooperating witness, first infiltrated a pre-existing money laundering network that operated internationally between Brooklyn, Deal, N.J. and Israel and laundered at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, non-profit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.
The cooperating witness told targets of the money laundering investigation that he was involved in illegal businesses and bank frauds. He also openly discussed with targets that he was in bankruptcy and was attempting to conceal cash and assets, and told them he wanted to launder criminal proceeds in increments ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to $150,000 or more at a time, often at the rate of several transactions per week. According to the criminal Complaints, the money laundering operations run by the rabbis laundered a total of approximately $3 million for the cooperating witness alone between about June 2007 and July 2009.
The investigation veered onto its public corruption track in July 2007 in Hudson County, where the cooperating witness represented himself to be a developer and owner of a tile business who wanted to build high rises and other projects and get public contracts in Hudson County schools. Through an intermediary, the cooperating witness was introduced to a Jersey City building inspector who, in return for $40,000 in bribes, promised to smooth the way for approvals of the cooperating witness's building projects, according to the criminal Complaints.
From there, introductions and referrals spread amongst a web of public officials, council and mayoral candidates, their operatives and associates - mostly in Hudson County, and primarily in Jersey City - who took bribes. In return, they pledged their official assistance in getting the cooperating witness's projects prioritized and approved or to steer contracts to him.
In part, the bribe-taking was connected to fund raising efforts in heavily contested mayoral and city council campaigns in Jersey City and Hoboken, and the bribes were often parceled out to straw donors, who then wrote checks in their names or businesses to the campaigns in amounts that complied with legal limits on individual donations - so-called conduit or conversion donations. Other bribe recipients took cash for direct personal use and benefit; others kept some of the cash and used the rest for political campaigns, according to the criminal Complaints.
The investigation produced hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings documenting much of the money laundering and bribe-taking.
"This investigation has once again identified a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action," said Marra. "It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action. The corruption was widespread and pervasive."
"In both parts of this investigation," Marra said, "respected figures in positions of public and private trust engaged in conduct behind closed doors that belied the faces of honesty, integrity and rectitude they displayed daily to their respective constituencies."
"The list of names and titles of those arrested today sounds like a roster for a community leaders meeting," said Weysan Dun, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI in Newark. "Sadly, these prominent individuals were not in a meeting room but were in the FBI booking room this morning. We hope that our actions today will be the clarion call that prompts significant change in the way business and politics are conducted in the State of New Jersey. Those who engage in this culture of corruption should know the cross hairs of justice will continue to be focused on them."
"Traditional money laundering used to be confined to narcotics traffickers and organized crime," said Julio La Rosa, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID). "Based on the allegations contained in today's complaints, money laundering has no boundaries and impacts every segment of our society."
The investigation is the third phase of the FBI, IRS-CID and U.S. Attorney's Office "Bid Rig" investigations that began first in Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. The initial investigation became public in 2002 with the guilty plea of Ocean Township mayor Terrence Weldon, who admitted extorting cash from developers to influence approval of projects. The second Bid Rig phase resulted in the arrests in February 2005 of 11 sitting and former mayors and other elected officials in Monmouth County. Those public officials took bribes from someone they believed was a contractor and money launderer seeking municipal work but who was, in fact, an undercover cooperating witness.
The Money Laundering Investigation
The money laundering conspiracy involved high-ranking religious figures and their associates in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Deal, N.J. Among them was Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, N.J. Typically, according to the criminal Complaints, Haim received bank checks in amounts ranging from tens of thousands of dollars up to $160,000 at a time made payable to a charitable, tax-exempt organization associated with Haim and his synagogue. To complete the money laundering cycle, Haim would return the amount of the check in cash to the cooperating witness, less a cut for Haim, typically 10 percent.
Haim's source of cash for funding the money laundering was, according to the Complaints, an Israeli in Israel who, Haim said, he had worked with for years. For a fee, that source would make cash available through other individuals charged today who ran cash houses in Brooklyn. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were regularly available from the cash houses for Haim to return to his money laundering clients, including the government's cooperating witness.
Similar circles of money launderers in Brooklyn and Deal, N.J. operated separately but occasionally co-mingled activities and participants. In most cases, the rings were led by rabbis who used charitable, non-profit entities connected to their synagogues to "wash" money that they understood came from criminal activity like bank fraud, counterfeit goods and other illegal sources, according to the criminal Complaints. Since such large amounts of cash were being transacted - tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per transaction, often multiple times in a week - the rabbis made significant sums in fees, which typically ran between five and ten percent per transaction.
One of the other money laundering operations was allegedly led by Saul Kassin, a leading Brooklyn rabbi, and another by Edmund Nahum, the leader of a synagogue in Deal. In one secretly recorded conversation, Nahum tells the cooperating witness that he should launder his money through a number of rabbis. "The more it's spread the better," Nahum said, according to his criminal Complaint.
In another conversation, Kassin allegedly asked the cooperating witness - who at the moment was conducting a $25,000 transaction with Kassin - why he didn't do all his business with Haim. The cooperating witness replied that he had by that time already conducted between $600,000 and $700,000 in money laundering transactions with Haim.
Another group of alleged money launderers was led by Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a Brooklyn synagogue. Fish's brother, Lavel Schwartz, a rabbi, was also charged with money laundering.
Also arrested today was Levi Deutsch, an Israeli living in Israel who, according to the Complaints, was a high-level source of cash from overseas for funding the bank checks that passed through charitable entities. Deutsch, who traveled frequently between Israel and New York, explained to the cooperating witness that the source of his cash was the "diamond business (and) other, other things," according to the Complaints. He further explained that he was associated with a Swiss banker who charged "two, three points" per $1 million laundered through him. (Deutsch is a different person than the Israeli working with Haim.)
Finally, another alleged money launderer was Moshe "Michael" Altman, a Hudson County real estate developer who, according to the criminal Complaints, "washed" more than $600,000 in dirty checks to cash for the cooperating witness through charitable, non-profit entities. Altman is also the intermediary who introduced the cooperating witness to Jersey City building inspector John Guarini, who allegedly took $20,000 from the cooperating witness in July 2007, and $40,000 in total over time. That initial bribe is what gave rise to the public corruption portion of the investigation.
The Public Corruption Investigation
Guarini introduced the cooperating witness to Maher A. Khalil, deputy director of the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services and a former member of the Jersey City Zoning Board of Adjustment. Khalil - who accepted $30,000 in cash payments from the cooperating witness - made key referrals that set in motion a kind of "corruption networking" amongst the defendants charged today, as well as others, Marra said. The investigation is continuing.
Introductions usually took place at diners and restaurants in Jersey City, Bayonne, Weehawken, Hoboken, Staten Island, Toms River, Atlantic City and elsewhere. Envelopes stuffed with cash were often passed from the cooperating witness to recipients or their intermediaries in parking lots after such meetings, according to the criminal Complaints.
Khalil pledged to the cooperating witness to make introductions only to "players" who would "do the right thing" by approving the cooperating witness's development plans in exchange for payments, according to his criminal Complaint. All along the way, each of the individuals charged allegedly took cash bribes up to $20,000 at a time - often numerous times -either taking the money outright or scheming to direct conduit payments through others to political campaigns in Jersey City or Hoboken. In each instance, the defendants acknowledged that, in exchange for the cash or cash campaign contributions, they would vote for and/or use their official influence to expedite and get approvals for the cooperating witness's projects.
Following are the individuals charged in the public corruption investigation, with the exception of Khalil and Guarini above, and summaries of their alleged conduct from the criminal Complaints (All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt):
The Money Laundering Defendants
Following are the individuals charged in the money laundering investigation and summaries of their alleged conduct as described in the criminal Complaints (All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt):
Cash House Operators for Haim transactions:
Cash House Operators and Cash Couriers for Fish transactions:
Additionally, money laundering charges were filed against Shimon Haber and Itzak Friedlander, associates of Michael Altman.
Marra credited Special Agents of the FBI Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun, in Newark, and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Julio La Rosa, for their commitment of resources and success in the Bid Rig cases to date. Marra also thanked the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office under the direction of Prosecutor Luis Valentin for its assistance in the Bid Rig investigations.
The cases are being prosecuted by Brian Howe, Deputy Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark McCarren, Sandra Moser and Maureen Nakly, all of the Special Prosecutions Division.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice