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Brooklyn men among those sentenced in inter-state divorce extortion case

November 20, 2015 Associated Press
FBI Director James Comey. Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register via AP
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TRENTON, N.J.— Three New York men who tried to coerce a Jewish man into giving his wife a religious divorce were sentenced on Thursday.

The men had pleaded guilty to crossing state lines to commit extortion. They were arrested in October 2013 with several others in an undercover sting in which an FBI agent contacted two Orthodox rabbis seeking a divorce document known as a get.

Jewish law mandates that the get be presented by a husband to a wife to make a divorce official. Prosecutors said the team used brutal methods and tools, including handcuffs and electric cattle prods, to torture unwilling husbands into granting gets.

Avrohom Goldstein, of Brooklyn, was sentenced Thursday to 45 months in prison, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. Ariel Potash, of Monsey, got a 14-month sentence, and Sholom Schuchat, of Brooklyn, was sentenced to time served.

Goldstein’s brother Moshe Goldstein, also of Brooklyn, was sentenced earlier this week to four years in prison for his role in the scheme. He had pleaded guilty.

Rabbi Mendel Epstein was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and was acquitted of attempted kidnapping, and Rabbi Martin Wolmark pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion. They will be sentenced next month.

A defense attorney had called Epstein an advocate for women. He didn’t dispute that “some laws may have been broken along the way” but said those didn’t include kidnapping.

Also convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping were the father of Moshe and Avrohom Goldstein and another man.

An undercover FBI agent posing as a woman looking to obtain a divorce from her unwilling husband testified that she got in touch with Epstein through Wolmark, who said she needed “special rabbis” to get the job done. She met with Epstein along with another undercover agent, who posed as her brother.

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