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Brooklyn Rabbi released following sentence in illegal organ trade

December 22, 2014 Associated Press
In this July 2012 file photo, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, of Brooklyn, arrives for his sentencing in Trenton, N.J., for what prosecutors say is the first-ever federal conviction for illegally selling human kidneys for profit. Rosenbaum has been released from a federal correctional facility after federal immigration officials decided the 63-year-old’s crimes were not deportable offenses. AP Photo/Mel Evans, File
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A man who prosecutors said styled himself as “the Robin Hood of kidneys” is out of prison after being the first person convicted in federal court of profiting from the illegal sale of human organs.

Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, an Israeli citizen, won’t be deported because federal immigration officials found that his crime was not one of “moral turpitude” that would have subjected him to being kicked out of the U.S., lawyer Edward Schulman said.

“It illustrates the intersection between legality and morality,” Shulman said.

Rosenbaum, now 63, was arrested in 2009 in what became the biggest corruption case ever in New Jersey. He had been living legally in the U.S.

He pleaded guilty to illegally selling human organs in 2011 and served more than two years in prison.

He was released this week from the federal correctional facility at New Jersey’s Fort Dix, and Shulman said he has returned to his home in Brooklyn.

Shulman said immigration officials decided not to send the case to a court to sort out because it was clear Rosenbaum’s offense was not a deportable crime.

Rosenbaum pleaded guilty to brokering the sale of three kidneys — buying them from people in Israel for as little as $10,000, then selling them to U.S. patients who did not qualify for transplants or did not want to wait. The cost of the sale was over $100,000, and the operations were performed at top U.S. hospitals.

While he pleaded guilty to three counts, authorities said he brokered many more kidney transplants and made millions from the deals.

“If he was drugging the people or knocking them out” to get their kidneys, Shulman said, that would have been a deportable offense. But, he said, that was not the case. “Both participants were willing.”

Shulman said his client’s deals saved lives.

“One could contend that letting somebody die,” Shulman said, “is also immoral.”

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