Rabbi Saul Kassin, the spiritual leader of the nation’s largest Syrian Sephardic community and considered the chief rabbi of all Syrian Jews in North America, was sentenced this morning to two years’ probation and fined more than $36,000 for his role in a scheme to launder millions of dollars through charitable organizations.
Syrian rabbi nabbed in N.J. corruption sweep receives two years' probation
MaryAnn Spoto • The Star-Ledger
TRENTON — Rabbi Saul Kassin, the spiritual leader of the nation’s largest Syrian Sephardic community, was sentenced this morning to two years’ probation and fined more than $36,000 for his role in a scheme to launder millions of dollars through charitable organizations.
U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano also ordered Kassin, the retired rabbi of Congregation Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, N.Y, to forfeit $367,500 representing the fees he accumulated in 18 months.
Originally charged with money laundering, Kassin, 89, pleaded guilty March 28 to operating an unlicensed money-transmitting business. He said he transmitted between $200,000 and $400,000 through his charity Magen Israel Society between June 2007 and December 2008.
The transactions were arranged by Solomon Dwek as part of the federal government’s massive investigation into public corruption and money laundering activities.
In a 13-minute address to Pisano that included references to the Torah, Kassin asked the judge to redirect the forfeited money to the charity so that it could be distributed to the community.
"The money should be returned to Magen Israel because you are not judging me, you are judging tens of thousands of people who are involved in this project,’" he told Pisano.
Kassin blamed federal investigators for the "many nights I could not sleep.’"
But Pisano and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren said Kassin alone was responsible for his sleepless nights.
"At the end of the day, the reason the charity does not have the $367,500 is because of you — and you’re responsible for that and not anybody else," Pisano said.
Kassin said he plans to open a bank account to repay the charity.
He could have faced between 18 and 24 months of incarceration but Pisano said he would not impose a prison sentence because of Kassin’s age.
Pisano imposed the $36,750 fine, which represents 10 percent of the forfeited funds, because Kassin took 10 percent of the funds that were transmitted illegally through his charity.