Orthodox Rabbis Rack Up Megillah of Charges

Money Launderer Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim

• Organ harvesting, pedophilia, money laundering: What’s next for Jewish holy men?

By Dave Gahary

Deal, N.J. – A drive through this picturesque central New Jersey “shore” town (pop. 750) leaves many with a puzzling thought: How can these people afford such grandeur? The latest fallout from Operation Bid Rig (OBR), a joint Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey sting investigation provides the answer. While honest, hard-working Americans are finding it harder than ever to stay afloat financially, a segment of the “chosen” population will do just about anything for a buck.

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Bid Rig’s latest victim: Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim, a prominent Syrian Orthodox Jew here, or Sephardic, who headed a local house of worship, known as a shul by those of the Jewish faith, was sentenced to five years in federal prison for his role in a sophisticated “international underground money transfer network” spanning six countries, a Swiss banker, charity fronts and several unlicensed money transmitting businesses in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ben Haim’s co-conspirator “resided in Israel and was the principal source of cash” for the operation, according to court documents. The assistant U.S. Attorney said that “the crime was particularly egregious because Ben Haim was not concerned the money was ostensibly from illegal activities and would be used to fund criminal enterprises.” In all, 15 Orthodox Jews were arrested for money laundering.

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OBR, which is still ongoing, has nailed the indictments of over 60 public officials and associates since its inception in 2002. The investigation is a three-pronged massive sting which had as its original focus political corruption (OBR and OBR II). Operation Bid Rig III began in June 2007 after another prominent Syrian Jew tried to get a worthless $50 million check cashed in May 2006 at a local bank and became the subject of intense local media interest. He was charged with bank fraud and became a cooperating witness (CW) for the FBI. OBR’s third prong focused on human organ trafficking and nailed another Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jew, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who pleaded guilty in October to brokering three illegal kidney transplants and pocketing over $120,000.

Here’s how the OBR III sting worked, in the case of the good rabbi.

The “wired” CW, Solomon Dwek, whose troubles were no secret to locals, approached Ben Haim claiming he was bankrupt and needed to conceal his assets, which he acquired illegally from insurance scams, bank frauds and the sale of counterfeit Gucci and Prada handbags. Ben Haim agreed to receive checks from Dwek made out to “purported charities” that the rabbi controlled in return for a 10 percent fee. The money then made its way to the co-conspirator in Israel, who kept a 1.5 percent fee for himself, and then distributed the remaining funds to three Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jews operating illegal money transmitting businesses, known as “cash houses.” All that was left to do was for either Ben Haim or Dwek to take a trip to Brooklyn to pick up the cash.

In all, Ben Haim completed “more than 35…money laundering transactions” with Dwek, valued at $1.5 million. Ben Haim’s cut for a little talking and driving was a cool $150,000, an amount that would take your average, working American nearly five years to earn. According to the Criminal Complaint, Ben Haim told Dwek that “‘the most I ever [laundered] was seven to eight’ million dollars in a year, and…earned ‘a million dollars a year’ during that period.”

Although much of the cash came from Israel, money traveled around the globe. This international and intricate nature of money laundering was on display during a taped conversation Ben Haim had with Dwek. Discussing his interactions with his Israeli co-conspirator, Ben Haim said “[d]id you know that he had me in the last 4 years send out wires every time to a different place in the world to a different name? It’s unbelievable. I never saw anything like it.” After Dwek asked whether he was referring to different locations in only Israel, Ben Haim said “[n]o, all over the world. . . All over the world. From Australia to New Zealand to Uganda. I mean every country imaginable. Turkey, you can’t believe it. . . . All different names. It’s never the same name. . . . Switzerland, everywhere, France, everywhere, Spain . . . . China, Japan.”

Interestingly, Israel is not a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris-based intergovernmental organization that combats money laundering and terrorism financing.

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Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s “Underground Interview” series. See www.americanfreepress.net for more.