This is insane
If this is how the leadership of different religious orginizations treats people
it is no wonder this country is in so much trouble

Crisis in the Catholic Church
By Mario Seiglie May 2002

  News of the sexual abuse of children by priests can no longer be covered up, and has serious implications for the Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere.
  Recent revelations have rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church. The news of sexual scandals in the Roman Church has filled the headlines and airwaves around the world. Numerous priests have been indicted for sexually abusing minors and many have ended in jail. These disclosures have weakened the American Catholic Church morally, financially and institutionally.
  The U.S. Catholic Church isn't alone in the crisis. Numerous priests in Ireland, Australia, Poland, France and England have also been forced to resign or are facing prison sentences. "Scandals involving priests molesting children," says The Los Angeles Times, "have hit parishes across America-and indeed, around the world-in recent decades. Thousands of adults have come forward to say they were abused as children and many priests have been sent to jail' ("Reports of Priest's Abuse Enrage Boston Catholics," Feb. 9, 2002, p. 1).
  Just in the United States, between 2,000 and 3,000 priests have been implicated for allegedly abusing children, and as of this writing, 60 clerics have been defrocked. The Catholic Church has reportedly paid more than $1 billion to the victims.
  "The crisis gathers steam day after day," says Time magazine, "with perhaps 2,000 priests accused of abuse across the country and hot lines jamming with more victims' calls... Since the first big abuse scandal broke at a Louisiana trial in 1985 ... an estimated $1 billion or more [has been paid by the Catholic Church]" ("Can the Church Be Saved?" April 1, 2002, p. 30).
  Tom Economus, who heads the organization, "The Linkup- Survivors of Clergy Abuse," himself a victim of priest sexual abuse, puts the figures even higher. He reports, "In the Roman Catholic Church there are over 800 priests [who] have been removed from ministry as a result of allegations against them... One noted expert claims that there are over 5,000 priests with some type of allegation against them. If this is true, then there are at least 1,000,000 direct victims of clergy sexual abuse and between 4-6 million indirect victims in the U.S." ("Catholic Pedophile Priests: The Effects on U.S. Society," Web site).
  Although sexual abuse of minors is not confined to clerics of the Catholic Church, the sheer numbers of lawsuits against priests and the appalling number of children victimized place this scandal in a category of its own.

  The start of the recent scandal
  In January 2002, a particularly scandalous case involving a Boston priest who was accused of abusing children over a 30-year span triggered a national outcry. "The scandal erupted in January in Boston," writes The Los Angeles Times, "when it was reported that a priest who had allegedly molested more than 140 children had been transferred by superiors from parish to parish" ("Mahony's Accuser Describes History of Mental Problems," April 7, 2002, p. 28). The priest was found guilty, sentenced to nine years in jail, and the Boston archdiocese agreed to pay up to $30 million to 86 of the victims.
  As a result of this case, many other victims of clerical abuse began talking to the civil authorities or the press. Just in the Boston area, Catholic officials were forced to turn in the names of another 88 priests who were accused of sexual misconduct with minors over the last 20 or more years. Now, an additional 400 complaints of sexual abuse in the area have turned up. Thomas Groome, a Boston College professor and a prominent Catholic, said, "This is our September 11."

Pressure from insurance companies
  Recently, the Boston archdiocese said it had settled so many child sexual abuse claims against it that a multimillion-dollar insurance fund was running dry. Insurance companies have threatened to cancel their coverage for such cases and this has prompted the Catholic leadership to step up its efforts to stem the tide of lawsuits.
  In Ireland, the Catholic Church has sought an agreement with the government in an attempt to mitigate the legal damages, a somewhat similar situation to what tobacco companies have tried to do to protect themselves from lawsuits in the United States.
  "In hopes of deterring class-action lawsuits," reports The Los Angeles Times, "the church in January [2002] negotiated a compensation deal with the [Irish] government. Under the deal, thousands of people who were abused in church-run schools and orphanages from the 1950s onward would be eligible for hefty payments, but only if they dropped their own lawsuits. The church pledged to contribute about $110 million, mostly in property, to a government-run compensation board. The total pay-out is projected to run four times that" ("Irish Lawyer to Investigate Alleged Sex Abuse by Catholic Clergy," April 5, 2002, p. 25).
  An unintentional result of the current scandal has been to reveal the vast wealth of the Catholic Church, since it has been paying huge sums of money to the victims for decades, even though many of the funds are tied to confidentiality clauses.
  "The fierce scrutiny that is piercing the Church's veil of secrecy over sex is also beginning to reveal the largely hidden state of its finances. As the institution's legal and moral crisis builds, so too do the threats to its economic foundation - a foundation already under enormous strain. Cases filed to date 'are just the tip of the iceberg, and it will be a multibillion-dollar problem before it ends,' says Roderick MacLeish Jr., a Boston attorney who has represented more than 100 victims in the past decade" ("The Economic Strain on the Church," Business Week, April 15, 2002, p. 5).

The problem of celibacy
  At the heart of the problem is the age-old issue of priestly celibacy, a mandatory practice of abstaining from marriage for all Catholic clerics that was adopted in A.D. 1139 at the Second Lateran Council.
  Although Catholic Church leaders deny there is a direct connection between celibacy and priest sexual abuse of minors, serious studies done by priests or former priests claim there is a direct correlation.
  Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and a retired Benedictine monk who later married, conducted a 25-year study on the celibate practice of priests. He concluded back in 1995, "The Roman Catholic priesthood is in crisis. It is obvious that the crisis is sexual... The situation is far deeper and broader than most believers would like to admit, but a surprising number of church officials are aware of its true scope" (Sex, Priests, and Power, 1995, p. 6).
  How profound is the sexual crisis in the Roman Church? "In 1976," adds Richard Sipe, "I was convinced that I had enough data to estimate that at any one time 6% of Catholic priests in the United States were having sex with minors. Since 1985 1 have reviewed an additional 1,800 accusations by adults who claim that as children they were sexually abused by priests. I also have seen the histories of nearly 500 priests who are known to have abused. This further study convinces me that the celibate/sexual system as it exists fosters and produces, and will continue to produce, at a relatively stable rate, priests who sexually abuse minors..." (ibid., p. 27).
  Although the news of child molestation by priests takes the headlines, the sexual problems among the Catholic clergy are far more rampant. "The sexual abuse of minors is only part of the problem" notes Sipe. "Four times as many priests involve themselves sexually with adult women, and twice the number of priests involve themselves with adult men" (ibid., p. 45).
  Other experts who have studied the problem feel that Sipe's figures may be conservative and that the problem is not limited to the American priesthood. Gary Wills, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, writes, "The Jesuit sociologist Joseph Ficher credited an account of over 30% of German priests having affairs with women. Andrew Greeley says that 25% of priests under 35 are gay, half of them sexually active. Jason Berry reports seminarians telling him Greeley's numbers should be doubled [up to 50 percent]" (Papal Sin, Structures of Deceit, 2000, p. 186).

Increasing number of homosexual priests
  These figures highlight a growing trend as more homosexuals join the ranks of the Catholic priesthood.
  "In some cases," Gary Wills notes, "there have been reports of predominantly gay seminaries and homosexual climates within them that became so pronounced that heterosexual seminarians felt uncomfortable and ultimately left. Gays themselves register the change. In a survey of 101 gay priests, those ordained before 1960 remember their seminary as having been 51 % gay. Those ordained after 1981 say their seminaries were 70% gay. The existence of such surveys is itself a sign of the altered condition of gays in the priesthood. Greater tolerance has made it possible to learn more about the existence and attitudes of gay priests, whose internal network was almost invisible to outsiders until recent decades...
  "In fact, the admission of married men and women to the priesthood-which is bound to come anyway-may well come for the wrong reason, not because women and the community deserve this, but because of panic at the perception that the priesthood is becoming predominantly gay" (ibid., pp. 194-195).
  Wills adds, "Almost all the priests who left in the massive hemorrhage of the 1970s and 1980s left to marry. The homosexual priests stayed, which meant that their proportion of the whole went up even when their absolute numbers stayed the same. And now even that absolute number is rising. Many observers suspect that John Paul's real legacy to his church is a gay priesthood" (ibid., p. 290).

Barriers that inhibit reporting
  Why have reports of scandals been largely confined to the English-speaking world?
  Much has to do with the more closed societies of the developing nations. Reporting such sexual abuse there is far more difficult than in the United States or Europe. "I should note here that in African, Latin, and South American cultures the 'priest's woman' and even married bishops seem to be taken for granted" (ibid., p, 72).
  "The whole world has a problem," according to Notre Dame Professor Robert Pelton, "but it gets brought into sharper perspective in the so-called First World. In Latin America, it's more difficult to challenge the Catholic Church, and so many people will say they're more worried about their next meal and these types of concerns" ("U.S. View of Scandal Not Shared by World," The Boston Globe, April 8, 2002, p. 1).
  The Boston Globe article goes on to say, "A Providence College psychology professor, the Rev. Joseph J. Guido, conducted a survey of superiors of an unspecified Catholic religious order and found that 83 percent of the North Americans were aware of an accusation of abuse against one of their priests, compared with 43 percent in Central America and the Caribbean and one-third in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
  "'Research suggests ... that the sexual abuse of children is a problem for the church everywhere,' Guido wrote in the current issue of America magazine, a Jesuit weekly. 'However,' he wrote, 'outside North America the religious order superiors were more likely to be aware of sexual misconduct by priests with adults, rather than children. In several parts of the English-speaking world, clergy sexual abuse scandals have erupted over the last two decades, costing the church hundreds of millions of dollars and immeasurable goodwill."'

Problem can no longer be covered up
  Why did it take so long to uncover what was going on?
  "The Roman Catholic Church," explains Time magazine, "is a stem hierarchy that has always kept its deliberations secret, policed itself and issued orders from the top. An obedient priest moves up in power by keeping his head down, winning rewards for bureaucratic skills and strict orthodoxy... If allegations came to diocese attention, the bishop, a power unto himself who often operated as if ordination gave him a share of the Pope's infallibility, acted as prosecutor, judge, and sentencer. Desperate to retain even sinful men, as the number of priests shrank alarmingly, and ever putting the image of the Church first, bishops refined the system. Convince the family that publicity would harm the faith. Don't report to the police; don't warn the parish... And if a victim finally sued, the strategy was to admit nothing, buy silence, settle out of court and seal the deal with a confidentiality contract" ("Can the Church Be Saved?" April 1, 2002, p. 3 1).
  Presently, the four-month-long sexual scandal has been so serious that the pope ordered all U.S. cardinals to appear before him in an attempt to stem the swelling tide of bad publicity. In a follow--up statement to the meetings, the pontiff said, "The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst."
  "The church stopped short of developing a 'zero tolerance' policy for priests accused of sexual transgressions. The American church leaders said they would recommend a special process to defrock any priest who has become 'notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors.' In cases that are 'not notorious' they would leave it up to the local bishop to decide if such a priest is a threat to children and should be defrocked" (Associated Press, April 24, 2002).
  At the very least, this crisis will force the American segment of the Catholic Church to take stricter measures with errant priests and provide better, more open, cooperation with authorities to deal with violations of civil law. Both will be significant changes in the heretofore cloistered world of the Catholic hierarchy.

Hasidic Rabbi and Assistant Are Arrested in Tax Scheme
Published: December 20, 2007

The grand rabbi of Spinka, a Brooklyn-based Hasidic sect, was arrested Wednesday with his executive assistant in Los Angeles on charges that they arranged and profited from inflated charitable donations that saved the donors millions of dollars in federal income taxes.

The rabbi, Naftali Tzi Weisz, 59, and the assistant, or gabbai, Moshe E. Zigelman, 60, were charged in a 37-count indictment returned on Tuesday in Los Angeles that named them as the masterminds of the money-laundering scheme, through which the authorities say they reaped more than $750,000 in profits. They were arrested by federal agents while on a fund-raising trip. Six other men in California and in Israel were also charged in the case.

Under the scheme, officials said, Rabbi Weisz and Mr. Zigelman spent more than a decade soliciting contributions for Spinka charities by promising to secretly refund as much as 95 percent of the money to the donors. The donors could then claim tax deductions on the full amount while paying as little as 5 percent, officials said.

In some cases, the contributions were returned as cash payments through what the government called “an underground money transfer network” involving businesses in and around Los Angeles’s jewelry district, the government said.

Three men in California were charged with taking part in the money transfer network: Yaacov Zeivald, 43, a professional scribe from Valley Village, Calif.; Yosef N. Naiman, 55, a tour company owner from Los Angeles; and Alan Friedman, 43, a businessman, also from Los Angeles. A fourth man, Moshe A. Lazar, 60, a diamond dealer, was charged in the scheme as well and was believed to be in Israel, the government said.

The contributions were repaid by a sophisticated series of wire transfers from businesses controlled by the Spinka sect to secret accounts in Israel, the government said. The accounts were established with the help of an official at the Israeli bank, Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv, who was arrested in Los Angeles, and a Tel Aviv lawyer, Jacob Kantor, 71, who remained at large in Israel, the government said.

According to the indictment, Mr. Roth helped the contributors get loans from a Los Angeles branch of the bank so their money would be available to them in the United States. The contributors could also hire officials of the Spinka sect to repatriate their money for them, albeit for a fee, the government said.

Earlier this year, the indictment said, Rabbi Weisz and Mr. Zigelman determined they had taken in some $8.7 million in contributions solicited by Mr. Zigelman alone. Of that, they held on to almost $750,000, the indictment said.

The case was broken, in part, with the help of a secret cooperating witness, a Los Angeles businessman identified in the indictment only as R. K. In one year alone, before he turned state’s evidence and agreed to record his former colleagues secretly, R. K. contributed about $1.7 million to the Spinka sect’s scheme.

Five Spinka charitable organizations in Brooklyn — identified in the indictment as Yeshiva Imrei Yosef, Yeshivath Spinka, the Central Rabbinical Seminary, Machne Sva Rotzohn and Mesivta Imrei Yosef Spinka — were named as defendants in the case. Calls to them were either not answered or were answered by men who did not wish to discuss the case. 

Rabbi Is Charged With Trying to Extort $4 Million From a Hedge Fund

Published: February 18, 2010

An Orthodox rabbi who runs a respected Jewish day school in Brooklyn was charged on Thursday with trying to extort $4 million from a Connecticut hedge fund.

The rabbi, Milton Balkany, the dean of the Bais Yaakov day school in Borough Park, is an influential fund-raiser and community leader known for his access to a wide circle of politicians. Mr. Balkany was accused, among other things, of trying to use his influence to extort the fund.

He was charged with wire fraud, extortion, blackmail and making false statements. The wire fraud count alone carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, prosecutors said that Mr. Balkany, 63, had recently been serving as a “spiritual adviser” to a federal inmate who told him that a Connecticut hedge fund had used inside information to profit from a number of stock trades.

The hedge fund was not named in the complaint, but prosecutors said that Mr. Balkany went to lawyers for the fund and told them that unless they handed over $4 million — $2 million of which would go to Bais Yaakov — he would instruct the inmate to tell the authorities about the insider trades.

According to the complaint, Mr. Balkany told the lawyers that government officials were eager to speak with the inmate — something prosecutors said was a lie. But Mr. Balkany called the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan in January and encouraged officials to speak with the inmate, prosecutors said.

On Thursday, Mr. Balkany received two checks totaling $3.25 million, the complaint said, adding that the rabbi told a hedge fund representative that the inmate would not discuss the fund with the government.

He was arrested later that afternoon. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said late Thursday that he could not comment on the charges because he had not seen the complaint. Mr. Balkany was released on bail, he said.

Sex and fraud woe for Greek church
Guardian Newspapers Limited
Feb.19, 2005

  Greece's Orthodox church, buffeted by sex and corruption scandals, met in emergency session on Friday amid lurid claims that have included one newspaper publishing photographs of a 91-year-old bishop naked in bed with a nubile young woman.
  Scrambling to resolve the worst crisis in the church's modern history, the embattled spiritual leader, Archbishop Christodoulos, convened the rare meeting as allegations of skulduggery, sexual improprieties, trial rigging, drug and antiquities smuggling engulfed the institution.
  "I humbly ask for forgiveness from the people and the clerics who, for the most, honour... the cassock they wear," he said addressing the 102-member Holy Synod, the church's ruling council.
  "There is a lot that must be done to put our house in order," he conceded before proposing a series of reforms.
  Greeks have watched dumbfounded as allegations of their priesthood's dissolute lifestyle have unfolded on their television screens.
  Snatched tape-recordings, aired nightly, have revealed rampant homosexuality among senior clerics who, unlike ordinary priests, are under oaths of chastity.
  The alleged debauchery has not been limited to monastic cells. Last week, claims emerged that Metropolitan Theoklitos of Thessaly, a leading churchman, had been arrested on suspicion of drug dealing in a police raid on a notorious nightclub in Athens.
  The priest was reportedly rounded up with Seraphim Koulousousas, the archbishop's former private secretary, also implicated in another "unholy affair" involving gay sex with a bishop.
  In a setback for Archbishop Christodoulos, Koulousousas announced this week that he was leaving the church to embark on a career as a fashion designer in Paris.
  The Greek Orthodox church sees homosexuality as an "abomination," with the archbishop recently describing it as a "blatant, crying sin".
  The revelations follow the suspension of two high-ranking clerics for "ethical misconduct" earlier this month.
  Metropolitan Panteleimon of Attica, who headed Greece's richest diocese, was withdrawn from duties after allegations of "lewd exchanges with young men" and charges that he had embezzled around €4,4-million for "his old age."
  The bishop is one of several eminent priests whose names have been linked in a widening trial-fixing and corruption scandal involving at least 20 judges currently under investigation.
  In the wake of suggestions by fellow members of the synod that he resign, Panteleimon's reaction was less than charitable. "If I speak, there will be an earthquake. I'll take many with me to my grave."
  Earlier this month, Archimandrite Iakovos Giosakis was also suspended after being charged with antiquities smuggling following the disappearance of valuable icons from his former diocese.
  Under public pressure from a media determined to expose the shenanigans, the church is investigating four more clerics, including a 91-year-old metropolitan bishop who was captured on camera cavorting in the nude with a young woman. The picture was splashed across the front page of the mass-selling Avriani.
  "It is true that some of us have sinned, mistakes have been made," the synod's spokesperson admitted. "There is clearly a need for catharsis."
  But with the revelations showing no sign of abating, Greeks were doubtful on Friday whether the clean-up would go far enough. Although Archbishop Christodoulos appeared unusually contrite, he stopped short of chastising his own role in the growing furore.
  In yet another embarrassing twist, the fiery leader has been accused of procuring the services of a convicted drug smuggler, Apostolos Vavylis, to help elect a favoured cleric to the post of patriarch of Jerusalem in 2001. Investigations have shown that the archbishop wrote a recommendation letter for Vavylis months before he was arrested smuggling heroin.
  "A tsunami is coming and it will reach the archbishop himself," predicted Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Zakynthos, a noted liberal.
  Unsurprisingly, the allegations have severely dented the reputation of the church in a country where 97% are baptised Orthodox. Unlike its Roman Catholic counterpart, the Greek Orthodox faith stresses the infallibility of its 11 000-strong priesthood as a whole. Greeks, in contrast to other Europeans, intrinsically link their national identity to their religion, viewing the church as the vehicle that kept Hellenism alive during 400 years of dark Ottoman rule.
  But, this week, for the first time ever the vast majority told pollsters they would support the full separation of church-state relations.
  "What all of this has confirmed is that corruption is not limited to the public sector," said Thanos Dokas, a political scientist.
  "Despite widespread evidence that these sort of things were happening, its leadership was always reluctant to deal with them.
  "For the last 150 years, the church has had a leading role in a country... now it is fighting a rearguard battle to maintain its grip on Greek society."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Mayors, rabbis arrested in NJ corruption probe
Edith Honan July 2009

NEWARK (Reuters) - Dozens of New Jersey politicians, officials and prominent rabbis were arrested on Thursday in a sweeping federal probe that uncovered political corruption, human organ sales and money laundering from New York to Israel, officials said.

The 10-year investigation, dubbed "Operation Bid Rig," exposed influence-peddling and bribe-taking among a network of public officials and a separate multimillion dollar money-laundering ring that funneled funds through charities operated by local rabbis, said the U.S. Attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey.

The cast of the 44 arrested featured Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Peter Cammarano, who took office three weeks ago in the industrial city visible across the Hudson River from New York.

Others accused were mayors of nearby Secaucus and Ridgefield, state Assemblymen, a deputy mayor, city council members, housing, planning and zoning officials, building inspectors and political candidates.

"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's white collar crime and public corruption program in New Jersey, who has worked on the investigation since it began in July 1999.

"It has become ingrained in New Jersey's political culture," he said, calling corruption "a cancer."

Central to the investigation was an informant who was charged with bank fraud in 2006 and posed undercover as a real estate developer and owner of a tile business who paid off officials to win project approval and public contracts in northern New Jersey, according to documents in the case.

The public officials stand accused of taking bribes for pledging their help getting permits and projects prioritized and approved or steering contracts to the witness.


In scenes that could have been lifted from the hit TV series "The Sopranos," about New Jersey organized crime, they met in diners, parking lots, even bathrooms, officials said.

"The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale," said Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra. "The victims are the average citizens and the honest business people in this state. They don't have a chance in this culture of corruption."

The public corruption uncovered by the informant led him to the separate money-laundering network by rabbis who operated between Brooklyn, Deal, New Jersey, and Israel, authorities said. They laundered some $3 million for the undercover witness between June 2007 and July 2009, authorities said.

"These complaints paint a disgraceful picture of religious leaders heading money laundering crews acting as crime bosses," Marra said. "They used purported charities, entities supposed set up to do good works as vehicles for laundering millions of dollars in illicit funds."


Rabbis accused of money-laundering were Saul Kassin, chief rabbi of a large Syrian Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn; Eliahu Ben Haim, principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal; Edmund Nahum, principal rabbi of another synagogue in Deal; and Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn.

The probe also uncovered Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, who is accused of conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant. According to the complaint, Rosenbaum said he had been brokering sale of kidneys for 10 years.

"His business was to entice vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 which he would turn around and sell for $160,000," said Marra.

Several of the public officials were accused of taking bribes of just $10,000, authorities said. Cammarano, at 31 the youngest ever mayor of Hoboken, was charged with taking $25,000 in bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday.

Most of those accused were arrested in a sweep across New Jersey by more than 300 federal agents early on Thursday and were slated to appear in court in Newark throughout the day.

The first 12 of the defendants, including Cammarano, appeared shackled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. Cammarano rocked back and forth in his chair but betrayed no emotion.

They were granted bail ranging from $100,000 to $500,000.

(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols and Ellen Wulfhorst; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

Rabbis arrested in N.J. sting

July 23, 2009

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Several rabbis were arrested as part of a public corruption and international money-laundering investigation in New Jersey.

According to reports, among the 44 people arrested Thursday morning by the FBI along with the rabbis were the mayors of three New Jersey towns, a deputy mayor and a state assemblyman. They were to appear in federal court in Newark later in the day.

The money-laundering suspects were accused of moving “at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, nonprofit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey,” according to a release by acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.

Prosecutors said they worked with an informant who had been charged with bank fraud in May 2006, said. Investigators obtained hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, according to prosecutors.

The rabbis arrested were religious leaders from Syrian Jewish neighborhoods in Deal and Elberon, N.J., as well as Brooklyn, N.Y. The Asbury Park Press reported that the investigation involved the Deal Yeshiva, a Sephardic institution that has a boys' division in Ocean Township and a girls' school in West Long Branch.

The arrests reportedly are the result of a two-year probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service that began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in Deal and Brooklyn, two tight-knit and wealthy communities.

The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and the IRS removed at least three boxes from the Deal Yeshiva as students were arriving at school Thursday, The Star-Ledger reported, as well as several boxes from the Ohel Yaacob synagogue in the same town.

The charged rabbis include Rabbi Saul Kassin, 87, of the Sharee Zion synagogue in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal; Edmond Nahum, 56, of the Deal Synagogue; Mordchai Fish, 56, of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn; and Lavel Schwartz, 57, Fish’s brother. They were charged with money laundering.

Kassin is accused of laundering more than $200,000 through the informant from June 2007 through December 2008, according to prosecutors. Fish, Schwartz and two other defendants used a charitable, tax-exempt organization called BCG, which was associated with Fish’s synagogue, to launder money, according to the FBI.

The mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, the deputy mayor of Jersey City and an assemblyman from Ocean Township were caught in the operation.

Also charged is Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, 58, of Brooklyn, who was accused of conspiring with others to acquire and trade human organs for use in transplantation. In one case noted in the complaint, Rosenbaum said it would cost $150,000 -- half up front. Rosenbaum said some of the money would go to the donor and some to doctors in Israel, according to the complaint.

Bloomberg  identified the cooperating witness as Solomon Dwek, a real estate developer in Monmouth County, N.J. who was charged in 2006 with scheming to defraud PNC Bank out of $50 million, according to a person familiar with the matter and court records. Dwek was never indicted; he has received 17 extensions to continue the period in which his case had to be presented to a federal grand jury.

JULY 24, 2009

Jersey Mayors Stung in Graft Probe


New Jersey has never been short of corruption scandals, but the one that unfolded yesterday was surprising even by the standards of the state that inspired "The Sopranos."

David Bergeland, The Bergen Record/ Associated Press

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell boarded a bus at the FBI building after being taken into custody in Newark.

Federal agents swept across New Jersey and New York on Thursday, charging 44 people -- including mayors, rabbis and even one alleged trafficker in human kidneys -- in a decadelong investigation into public corruption and international money laundering.

The key to the investigation: a real-estate developer who became an informant after being arrested on bank-fraud charges in 2006, according to a person familiar with the case. The developer, Solomon Dwek, wore a wire for the Federal Bureau of Investigation while offering to bribe New Jersey mayors and other public officials, that person said.

A lawyer for Mr. Dwek didn't respond to requests for comment.

While the state has a long history of dirty politics -- in Newark alone, three ex-mayors have been convicted of crimes unrelated to the latest sweep -- the scale of the allegations shocked veterans of New Jersey's political crises.

"This is not only a black eye, but this fans more cynicism," said Gene Grabowski, a crisis manager who has represented New Jersey clients in graft probes. "It validates this idea that New Jersey is a setting for 'The Sopranos.'"
[A group of unidentified men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday in Newark, N.J., to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing. Federal agents swept across New Jersey on Thursday, charging 44 people in an investigation into public corruption and international money-laundering.]

A group of unidentified men are walked outside FBI offices Thursday in Newark, N.J., to a waiting bus for transport to court hearing. Federal agents swept across New Jersey on Thursday, charging 44 people in an investigation into public corruption and international money-laundering.


Developer Became Secret Witness

Law Blog: Highlights, text of complaints

Video: FBI Arrests N.J. Mayors, Rabbis

Q&A: New Jersey's History of Corruption

    Sortable table: Arrests, charges, more

Court documents read like a pulp crime novel. At one point, Mr. Dwek (described as a "cooperating witness" in criminal complaints) is quoted saying to an alleged money-launderer: "I have at least $100,000 a month coming from money I 'schnookied' from banks for bad loans."

Another time, Mr. Dwek gave one of the alleged co-conspirators a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000 cash, the documents say.

The arrests in the public-corruption portion of the probe included the Democratic mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, Peter Cammarano III and Dennis Elwell; Republican state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt; and Democrat Leona Beldini, the deputy mayor of Jersey City.

A woman who picked up the phone at Mr. Van Pelt's office said, "Mr. Van Pelt was arrested today and is out of the office." His lawyer declined to comment.

Mr. Cammarano's lawyer said he "intends to plead innocent because he is innocent."

After her court appearance, Ms. Beldini said she didn't violate taxpayers' trust and declined to comment further while leaving the courthouse. Mr. Elwell and his lawyer declined to comment.

Arrests on the investigation's money-laundering side include several rabbis in New York and New Jersey, said Ralph Marra Jr., acting U.S. attorney for New Jersey. The arrestees appeared in federal court in New Jersey Thursday afternoon.

Corruption among the politicians was "a way of life," Mr. Marra said. "They existed in an ethics-free zone."

The probe includes a bizarre sideshow: the alleged trafficking of human kidneys, a lucrative, illegal industry and not one that's typically showcased alongside political shenanigans.

In the course of the investigation last year, Mr. Dwek came into contact with an alleged organ trafficker, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, and told him Mr. Dwek's uncle needed a new kidney, according to court papers. The two men discussed how Mr. Dwek would pay a $160,000 fee to buy a kidney from a donor in Israel, documents show. According to the complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum described himself as a "matchmaker."

Mr. Rosenbaum couldn't be reached for comment. A person who answered the phone at his residence declined to comment.

This federal investigation grew out of two previous cases and dates back to 1999, according to the FBI. It culminated at 6 a.m. Thursday with more than 200 FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents making arrests and executing search warrants throughout the state, said Weysan Dun, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark office.

In all, 29 people were caught up in the public-corruption part of the probe. Fifteen were implicated in the investigation into money laundering, including Mr. Rosenbaum, who was charged with conspiring to broker the sale of a kidney.

Court documents quote a number of incriminating wiretap recordings involving New Jersey politicians -- some prominent names, others known only in their small communities. For example, according to court documents, on April 27, FBI agents caught an incoming call from former Jersey City council candidate Guy Catrillo to a consultant's cellphone. The consultant asked Mr. Catrillo: "Did you get the money from [Mr. Dwek] when we saw him the other day?"

Mr. Catrillo replied: "Yeah, I took care of that. Yeah."

Mr. Catrillo's office didn't answer the phone Thursday.

A New Jersey corruption scandal so big, those arrested are taken by the busload. More than 40 people were taken into custody, including assemblymen, mayors, citizens and even rabbis. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Looking Back

Mr. Dwek, a 36-year-old religious-school head and philanthropist from Monmouth County, N.J., was at the heart of the investigation. He began his career as a small-time real-estate developer whose investors included friends and relatives in the Syrian Jewish community. Three years ago he was charged with defrauding PNC Bank of $25 million and remained free on a $10 million bond.

In 2007, Mr. Dwek began working for the FBI, wearing a wire and being trailed by FBI agents who videotaped his encounters with targets of their probe, according to someone familiar with the matter and information in the complaints. Prosecutors said the alleged bribe-taking was often tied to election fund-raising efforts. Other recipients took cash for direct personal use, prosecutors allege.

In the case involving Mr. Cammarano, who became Hoboken mayor on July 1, he was charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from Mr. Dwek in return for promising support for zoning changes for a high-rise Mr. Dwek said he wanted to build. Mr. Cammarano is so new to the mayor's job that an events poster outside his office still lists the name of the previous mayor, David Roberts, on it.

The alleged bribes occurred during the 32-year-old Mr. Cammarano's mayoral campaign earlier this year, according to the FBI's complaint.

According to the complaint, Mr. Cammarano assured Mr. Dwek, that "[y]ou can put your faith in me" and that "I promise're gonna be, you're gonna be treated like a friend."

Supporters of the mayor expressed dismay at the charges. "This was a charismatic guy who we thought could get us past all this stuff," said Jay Rose, a 27-year resident of Hoboken who voted for Mr. Cammarano. "It looks like we're back to square one."

In the FBI money-laundering probe, Mr. Dwek represented himself as someone who engaged in various illegal businesses, including bank fraud and counterfeiting of women's handbags. "Business is very good. Prada, Gucci, boom, boom, boom," Mr. Dwek boasted at one point, according to court papers.

The alleged money-laundering operations -- most of them run by rabbis as religious charity organizations -- laundered about $3 million for Mr. Dwek in his capacity as a cooperating witness since June 2007, according to the court documents and a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Dwek likely will receive credit from federal prosecutors for his cooperation.

The prosecutors allege that the rabbis used nonprofit organizations connected to their synagogues to launder money they understood came from criminal activity.

In 2007 Eliahu Ben Haim, principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob, a synagogue located in the New Jersey shore community of Deal, accepted a $50,000 check from Mr. Dwek, which was drawn from an account held by a phony company set up by the FBI for Mr. Dwek to help facilitate the investigation, according to the complaint.

The check was made payable to one of Mr. Ben Haim's charitable organizations with the expectation that the proceeds would eventually be returned to Mr. Dwek, documents indicate; Mr. Ben Haim, who was charged with money laundering on Thursday, was to take a 10% fee.

A woman who answered the phone at Ohel Yaacob Congregation in Deal said, "I don't have anything to say." Michael O'Donnell, Mr. Ben Haim's lawyer, declined to comment.

The arrests place an added burden on Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat in his first term who is running for re-election this year. Mr. Corzine ran four years ago promising to quash corruption. "The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated," he said in a statement.

In Hoboken, a city of just less than 40,000, city-clerk employees at the municipal building huddled around a small television to watch the news conference announcing the charges.

Some residents there said they weren't so surprised. "It happens everywhere in New Jersey," said James Goggin, a Hoboken resident. "I'll tell you one thing -- it never gets boring here. But sometimes I wish it would."

—Chad Bray, Robert Copeland, Chris Herring, Lucette Lagnado, Barbara Martinez and Steven Russolillo contributed to this report.

Write to Amir Efrati at, Suzanne Sataline at and Dionne Searcey at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A1