Enforcer in Orthodox Jewish Divorce Extortion Operation Pleads Guilty

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Brian Stauffer
On October 9 2013, the FBI arrested eight men inside a warehouse in New Jersey. Inside, the men had with them feather quills, ink bottles, and a writing board. They also had rope, plastic bags, a screwdriver, and surgical blades. The men, federal prosecutors charged, were planning to kidnap an Orthodox Jewish man and assault him until he agreed to grant his wife a get, the document required for a divorce under Jewish law.

The man they were allegedly targeting, however, did not exist. The men had been pulled into an FBI sting operation focused on Mendel Epstein, the suspected leader of the divorce extortion operation.

Sholom Shuchat was one of the eight men arrested in the warehouse. On Monday he became the fifth among them to plead guilty to charges that he participated in the plot.

See our December feature story on the subject: Bad Rabbi: Tales of Extortion and Torture Depict a Divorce Broker's Brutal Grip on the Orthodox Community

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Brian Stauffer
Our December cover on the subject.

Shuchat, who is from Brooklyn, pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark to traveling in interstate commerce to commit an act of violence.

David Hellman, Avrohom Goldstein, Moshe Goldstein, and Simcha Bulmash had already pleaded guilty to extortion charges earlier this year. Bulmash, who copped a deal in late March, had been the most recent conviction. The five men, all in their early-to-mid 30s, admitted to working as enforcers for Epstein.

Hellman, the Goldstein brothers, and Bulmash, also admitted that the October plot was not the first time they participated in an attempt to physically coerce a man into divorcing his wife. They each stated that they assaulted another Brooklyn man on August 22, 2011.

Epstein described the men in the warehouse as the "tough guys" tasked with beating the victim until he agreeed to grant the get. In August 2013, he told an undercover FBI agent, who posed as a desperate wife seeking his services, that the the job would cost as much as $70,000: $10,000 to pay for the rabbis to approve the coercion in an official rabbinical court, plus $60,000 to cover the "tough guys."

"We take an electric cattle prod," Epstein said, according to FBI transcripts of the recorded conversation. "If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move, you put it in certain parts of the body and in one minute the guy will know."

New Jersey prosecutors had begun investigating Epstein a year before, in October 2010, when a group of men allegedly attacked a man named Yisrael Bryskman in Lakewood.

As we detailed in a December feature story, Bad Rabbi, members of the Orthodox community have for decades accused Epstein of exploiting the religion's marriage customs for his own financial gain. Some tales of kidnapping and torture at the hands of Epstein go back as far as the early 1980s.

Shuchat faces a maximum prison sentence of 20-years.

Next: the indictment against Shuchat, Epstein, and eight others.

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7 comments
dunningfan
dunningfan

Shuchat didn't know anything and was the only one who didn't.  He was just too stupid not to ask when being dragged along to write (an invalid) religious document. Even the prosecution doesn't contend that he had plans to beat anyone up.


As to the others, they distort Judaism and the Jewish religion.  They are not religious.


As posted before -
These people distort Jewish law and are a threat to it.  Since Takanas Rabbeinu Gershom, over 1,000 years ago, both men and women can refuse a divorce because marriage is sacred and should be protected.  These are criminals and Rav Elyashiv Of Blessed Memory and now Rav Chaim Kanievsky, may he live long, and the Eida HaChareidis have ruled that such coerced divorces are invalid and the children of such second marriages could be mamzerim.  Epstein is nothing more than a thug who has disgraced Judaism in ways that Judaism's worst enemy could not.  The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot and their leader Hershel Schachter have done similar things, in tandem with the Beth Din of America, both are being investigated by the FBI, together with a so-called rabbi in the South, Rabbi David Lehrfield, whose gittin have been ruled to be highly questionable and his conversions are not accepted.  (the local rabbonim advise using Rabbi Mendel Senderovic, Rabbi Twersky's Rosh Kollel, who travels to the South every month instead).  Schachter and Lehrfield are facing similar investigations and have been derided as having broken the foundations of Jewish religious law.

frank124c
frank124c topcommenter

The Jewish religion is nasty. Kidnapping and torture to obtain divorce is just the surface of a "religion" based on hate and violence.

DAVE
DAVE

DA Charlie Hynes look the other way when the Jewish Mafia had the Rabbis fixing ecstasy and MDMA deals with the Israeli Mob at the NYC Le Baron Club and Marquee Club. The cash was stashed at Battery Park apartments. 

The Voice should be doing some investigative journalism into this subject. The glory days of the VOICE has unfortunately past. Its sad the Voice use to be relevant.

dunningfan
dunningfan

@frank124c Shuchat didn't do or know anything and he was the only one who didn't.  He copped a plea for being stupid enough to come along to write the religious document (even the prosecution didn't claim that he was going to beat anyone up). 

Regarding the rest of them - they break Jewish law.

 
As posted before - These people distort Jewish law and are a threat to it.  Since Takanas Rabbeinu Gershom, over 1,000 years ago, both men and women can refuse a divorce because marriage is sacred and should be protected.  These are criminals and Rav Elyashiv Of Blessed Memory and now Rav Chaim Kanievsky, may he live long, and the Eida HaChareidis have ruled that such coerced divorces are invalid and the children of such second marriages could be mamzerim.  Epstein is nothing more than a thug who has disgraced Judaism in ways that Judaism's worst enemy could not.  The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot and their leader Hershel Schachter have done similar things, in tandem with the Beth Din of America, both are being investigated by the FBI, together with a so-called rabbi in the South, Rabbi David Lehrfield, whose gittin have been ruled to be highly questionable and his conversions are not accepted.  (the local rabbonim advise using Rabbi Mendel Senderovic, Rabbi Twersky's Rosh Kollel, who travels to the South every month instead).  Schachter and Lehrfield are facing similar investigations and have been derided as having broken the foundations of Jewish religious law.

formerADA
formerADA

@DAVE You are correct.

Jonathan Braun traded in more than 110 tons of marijuana and had strong connections to the  NYC Rabbis and Jewish Mob extending to Israel.

frank124c
frank124c topcommenter

@dunningfan @frank124c The whole attitude of Jews is wrong. If a Jewish woman wants a divorce why would she consider it to be better to kidnap and torture her husband into giving her a "Get" than to go to  divorce court with a good lawyer and getting one legally? 

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