Between 2009 and 2013, the rabbis - Mendel Epstein, Martin
Wolmark, Binyamin Stimler and Jay Goldstein, who also went by
"Yaakov" - kidnapped or tried to kidnap men and torture them with
beatings and stun guns until they agreed to divorce their wives,
according to the indictment filed in New Jersey federal court by
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Orthodox Jewish women cannot get a divorce unless their husbands
consent through a document known as a "get." Experts say such
kidnapping schemes are responses to so-called "get abuse," in which
husbands demand a larger share of the couple's communal property
before granting the divorce.
The rabbis face up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for each
kidnapping count if found guilty, Fishman said in a statement.
"Rabbi Wolmark did not violate the law and had no part in any
criminal conduct that is alleged to have been used to force anyone
into granting a get at any time," attorneys for Wolmark said in a
Undercover FBI agents met Epstein and Wolmark at their home, who
told them that a kidnapping would cost a $10,000 payment to a
rabbinical court and up to $60,000 more for the "tough guys" who
would torture the husbands, court documents show.
"I guarantee you that if you're in the van, you'd give a get to your
wife. You probably love your wife, but you'd give a get when they
finish with you," Epstein told one of the undercover agents posing
as the brother of an unhappy wife, at the meeting, according to the
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In the following sting operation, undercover agents accompanied
Goldstein and Stimler to a New Jersey warehouse where a kidnapped
victim was to be assaulted, the statement said. The rabbis wore
bandannas and Halloween masks and brought rope, surgical blades, and
a screwdriver to carry out the beating. Authorities arrested them at
the warehouse last fall.
In March, two of Goldstein's sons pleaded guilty to participating in
the violent ring.
(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Ken Wills)
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