Monday, May 19, 2014

Case of Rabbi David Aryeh Epstein

Case of Rabbi David Aryeh Epstein
(AKA: David Epstein, David A. Epstein, Dovid Epstein)

Lakewood, NJ


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Table of Contents:

  1. Stun guns forced Orthodox divorce, prosecutors say (05/15/2014)
  2. Mendel Epstein's Son Arrested for Role in Divorce Extortion Operation (05/19/2014)


Stun guns forced Orthodox divorce, prosecutors say 
By Stephanie Loder
Asbury Park Press - May 15, 2014

LAKEWOOD – The son of a rabbi was one of two men arrested at their township homes Thursday on charges that they kidnapped, beat and shocked an Orthodox Jewish husband to force him to grant his wife a religious divorce, authorities said.

David Aryeh Epstein, 39, and Chaim Baruch Rubin, 32, were charged with kidnapping, according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman. Epstein is the son of Mendel Epstein, a 68-year-old Brooklyn rabbi who was accused of similar charges last fall. The men were accused of beating and shocking the husband with a stun gun on his fingers and genitals, Fishman said.

According to the complaint, in November 2009 Rubin called the victim concerning a sales job opportunity at ShredZone in Lakewood, and the victim, who had been living in Brooklyn, moved to a temporary residence in Lakewood to begin work. A few days later, Rubin asked him to stay late for a private meeting.

When he walked to his car that evening, the victim was attacked by a group of men, the complaint says. He was dragged into a van, bound with duct tape and zip ties, beaten and shocked with a stun gun on his fingers and genitals until he agreed to grant his wife a divorce. Under Orthodox Jewish law, a wife cannot get a religious divorce unless the husband agrees to give her a “get,” a document she needs for the divorce to go through.

According to the complaint, at some point during the beating, Rubin got in the front seat of the van. And this past January, the victim saw a photo of David Epstein and identified him as one of the men who attacked him.

The complaint says a rabbi pointed a video camera at the victim, telling him to repeat the words needed for a get. The victim refused, the driver began stomping the victim, and then the victim agreed, the complaint says.

The victim then was tossed out of the van, made his way to a nearby house and then was taken to an emergency room, treated for broken ribs, a bruised spine and other injuries, the complaint says.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum potential penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Both men appeared Thursday in federal court in Trenton before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert.

They were released on $500,000 bail with home detention and electronic monitoring.

Undercover FBI agents
David Epstein’s father, Mendel Epstein, was charged in October 2013 with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, along with nine other people, accused of plotting to kidnap and torture an Orthodox Jewish man to force a religious divorce.

An undercover FBI special agent posed as an Orthodox Jewish wife whose husband was unwilling to consent to divorce, while a second agent posed as the wife’s brother, the complaint said. The two undercover agents arranged to meet Epstein at his Ocean County home on Aug. 14, 2013, and they secretly recorded the meeting on audio and videotape, the complaint said. The town was not given, but property records say Epstein has a home on Mackenzie Court in Lakewood.

Epstein told them it would cost $10,000 to pay for the rabbis on the rabbinical court to approve the kidnapping of the husband and an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to pay for the “tough guys” who would conduct the beating and obtain the “get,” the complaint said.

According to the complaint, the “tough guys” would use electric cattle prods, karate and handcuffs, and place plastic bags over the heads of husbands. When the men accused of the plot arrived at an Edison warehouse where they thought they would meet the target, they were arrested by FBI agents, according to prosecutors.

Mendel and David Epstein also were implicated in the May 6 guilty plea of David Wax to similar charges. Wax, 51, of Lakewood pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a 2010 case, authorities said. David and his wife, Judy Wax, were arrested and charged with paying to have an Israeli national — Yisrael Meir Briskman — kidnapped and beaten in order to force him to give his estranged wife a religious divorce. His wife’s case ispending.

Wax told the court that in October 2010, he and Mendel Epstein agreed to force Briskman to give Briskman’s wife a “get.” Wax told the court Mendel Epstein had arranged for a forced “get” for Wax’s sister in the 1980s.

Wax, according to the guilty plea, convinced Briskman to go to Wax’s Lakewood home under the pretense they would work on Talmudic books that Wax was publishing. However, Briskman soon learned his invitation was for the purpose of obtaining a “get.”

Shown a body bag
When Briskman arrived at Wax’s home, he was brought upstairs, blindfolded, handcuffed and bound then assaulted until he provided the Orthodox document, authorities said. According to the original complaint, Wax showed Briskman a body bag and threatened to bury him alive if he did not consent to a divorce. Wax told the court that Epstein sent several co-conspirators, including Rabbi Martin Wolmark, Jay “Yaakov” Goldstein, Alexander “Sendy” Frankel and Mendel Epstein’s son, David Epstein, to Wax’s house to help.

The wife’s family seeking the religious document paid Wax approximately $100,000 for the agreement. Wax told the court that Mendel Epstein got $50,000. Wax also told the court that on the drive back to New York with Briskman, he tried to extort another $50,000 from Briskman’s father.

The charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Wax’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 19.

The Wax case ultimately led to the charges against Mendel Epstein, Wolmark and eight other New York men.


Mendel Epstein's Son Arrested for Role in Divorce Extortion Operation
By Albert Samaha
The Village Voice - May 19, 2014

Mendel Epstein's son and another man were arrested Thursday on charges of kidnapping and assaulting a man in 2009. David Aryeh Epstein, 39, and Chaim Baruch Rubin, 32, allegedly beat the victim until he agreed to grant his wife a "get," the document required for divorce under Orthodox Jewish faith.
This is the third divorce extortion case to lead to criminal charges in the last three years. Mendel Epstein and nine other men were arrested in October after an FBI sting. Four have pleaded guilty. David Wax, arrested in 2011, pleaded guilty to a 2010 assault.
According to the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Rubin contacted the victim with a job opportunity in Lakewood, New Jersey. One night, Rubin asked him to stay late for a meeting. When the victim walked to his car, a group of men jumped him and put him into the back of a van.
They bound him with zip ties and duct tape. They beat him and applied a stun gun to his hands and genitals, according to the complaint. Eventually he agreed to recite the oath for a get.
After that, the assailants dropped him out of the van. He went to the emergency room. He had suffered bruised ribs and a bruised spine.
In January, Rubin identified David Epstein in a photograph as one of the attackers.
The circumstances of this case are similar to previous divorce extortion allegations.
The investigation into Wax's case led federal agents to Mendel Epstein. In August 2013, the FBI began a sting operation targeting Epstein and his accomplices. An undercover agent posed as a wife seeking a coerced get. Epstein offered his services for $70,000.
"We take an electric cattle prod," Epstein said in their 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."
Federal agents arrested eight accomplices as they prepared for the kidnapping in a warehouse. Epstein and Martin Wolmark, a rabbi from upstate New York, were arrested soon after.
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.



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