Brothers admit to violent Jewish divorce gang activity

10:30 AM, Mar 13, 2014   |    comments
The FBI raided the Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey in connection with a divorce-gang investigation on Oct. 10, 2013.
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(USA TODAY) TRENTON, N.J. - Two Brooklyn brothers have pleaded guilty to conspiring to violently coerce a man to give his wife a religious divorce as part of an eight-member gang led by a Monsey rabbi, federal prosecutors said.

Avrohom and Moshe Goldstein became the latest enforcers of Jewish divorce law to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Trenton, N.J. They pleaded guilty Monday to crossing state lines to commit extortion, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The Goldsteins' guilty plea came a week after David Hellman, a personal trainer from Brooklyn, also admitted his role with the gang.

The kidnap team was masterminded by Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, the principal of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, and Mendel Epstein, 68, a prominent ultra-Orthodox divorce mediator from Brooklyn who published a book, "Bill of Rights of a Jewish Wife."

Federal prosecutors charge that, on Oct. 9, the team traveled to a warehouse in Edison, N.J., where they met with undercover FBI agents posing as a Jewish man's brother-in-law and others. The men intended to force the husband to give his wife a "get," a document which, according to Jewish law, must be presented by a husband to his wife to effect their divorce, authorities said, for a fee of $100,000.

The gang included the Goldsteins' father, Jay Goldstein, 59, Simcha Bulmash, 30, Ariel Potash, 40, of Monsey and Binyamin Stimler, 38, and Sholom Shuchat, 29, and Hellman, 31, all of Brooklyn. Prosecutors said the Goldsteins admitted that when they arrived at the warehouse, the group prepared to confine, restrain and threaten the victim.

Moshe and Avrohom Goldstein also admitted that, on Aug. 22, 2011, they and others went to a Brooklyn home where they restrained, assaulted and injured a man in an attempt to extort a divorce from him.

Each brother faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and at least $250,00 in fines. Moshe Goldstein's sentencing is scheduled for June 16, while his brother's is June 20. They are free on $500,000 bond each and subject to GPS monitoring.

In conversations secretly recorded by FBI agents, Epstein said husbands could be convinced to give the "get" by "tough guys" who used karate and handcuffs and sometimes put plastic bags over the husbands' heads. A preferred method involved a cattle prod, he said.

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