The New Jersey corruption sting last week was responsible for the arrests of 44 people. In all, 29 people were caught up in the probe into public corruption, and 15 were implicated in the investigation into money laundering, including one Brooklyn man charged with conspiring to broker the sale of a kidney.
The money laundering conspiracy is said to have involved high-ranking religious figures and their associates in Brooklyn and Deal. Among them, allegedly, was Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim of Long Branch, the principal rabbi of Cong. Ohel Yaacob in Deal. Typically, according to the criminal complaints, Haim received bank checks in amounts ranging from tens of thousands of dollars 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 with whom, Haim said, he had worked with for years. For a fee, that source would make cash available through other individuals charged last wook 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, Solomon Dwek.
Similar circles of money launderers in Brooklyn and Deal were said to have operated separately but occasionally co-mingled activities and participants. In most cases, the rings were allegedly 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 allegedly made significant sums in fees, which typically ran between 5 and 10 percent per transaction.
One of the other money laundering operations was allegedly led by Rabbi Saul Kassin, a leading Brooklyn rabbi, and another by Rabbi Edmund Nahum, the leader of Deal Synagogue in Deal. In one secretly recorded conversation, Nahum is said tell 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 Rabbi Mordchai Fish of Cong. Sheves Achim, a Brooklyn synagogue. Fish’s brother, Rabbi Lavel Schwartz, was also charged with money laundering.
Also arrested last Thursday 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 from the Israeli said to be 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.
Here are the individuals charged in the money laundering investigation and summaries of their alleged conduct as described in the criminal complaints:
Kassin, the chief rabbi of Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, laundered more than $200,000 with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and last December by accepting “dirty” bank checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from Kassin’s charitable organization, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction.
Nahum laundered money both acting alone and with Kassin. Nahum laundered $185,000 between June 2007 and last December by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from his own and Kassin’s charitable organizations, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction.
Both Kassin and Nahum also laundered money to create fictitious tax deductions by accepting checks made payable to their charitable organizations, which created the appearance of charitable donations. They then deducted their 10 percent fee for laundering the checks through their charitable organization accounts and returned to the originators checks drawn on one of their accounts for 90 percent of the value of the original checks. These return checks would be payable to a name designated by the originators.
Ben Haim laundered $1.5 million with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and last February by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of approximately 10 percent for each transaction. His source for the cash was an Israeli who, for a fee of 1.5 percent, supplied the cash through intermediary cash houses run by defendants Arye Weiss, Yeshayahu Ehrental, and Schmulik Cohen, who are described below. Ben Haim remarked that at one time he had laundered between $7 million and $8 million in one year, and earned $1 million laundering money in that year.
Cash house operators for Haim transactions:
Arye Weiss operated a cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions and is charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
Yeshayahu Ehrental operated a cash house from his office in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions and is charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
Schmulik Cohen operated a cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions and is charged with supplying $850,000 in cash.
Fish and Schwartz laundered approximately $585,000 with the cooperating witness by accepting dirty checks and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of 15 percent for each transaction. The source for the cash for some of the transactions was Levi Deutsch, who supplied the cash through an intermediary cash house run by Binyomin Spira; for other transactions his source for the cash is unidentified but the cash was provided by cash couriers, Yolie Gertner and David Goldhirsh and cash houses run by Abe Pollack and Naftoly Weber. On two occasions over the course of his dealings with the cooperating witness, Fish gave the cooperating witness new chips for his cell phone to thwart any law enforcement attempt to wiretap their telephone calls.
Deutsch, the Israeli supplier of cash for a number of Fish money laundering transactions. For a fee of 2 or 3 percent, he supplied cash for the transactions through intermediary Spira’s cash house and is charged with supplying $200,000 in cash.
Cash house operators and cash couriers for Fish transactions:
Spira operated a cash house from a bakery in Brooklyn in which he received cash from Deutsch and supplied cash for Fish money laundering transactions. He is charged with supplying $200, 000 in cash.
Gertner acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions and is charged with moving $185,000 in cash.
Goldhirsh acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions and is charged with moving $100,000 in cash.
Pollack operated a cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Weber) for Fish money laundering transactions and is charged with supplying $125,000 in cash.
Weber operated a cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Pollack) for Fish money laundering transactions and is charged with supplying $125,000 in cash.
Additionally, money laundering charges were filed against Shimon Haber and Itzak Friedlander, associates of Michael Altman.
Editor’s note: For more information about the corruption arrests, go to newjerseynewsroom.com, where a version of this article originated.