A prominent New Jersey rabbi was given a five-year prison sentence for laundering at least $1.5 million through supposedly charitable organizations for a fraudulent businessman.
Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim ran three nonprofit organizations in New Jersey that were said to help the poor. However, beginning in 2006, Ben Haim admitted that he used the organizations to launder money for Solomon Dwek, whose illegal business schemes included bank fraud, counterfeit goods trafficking, and bankruptcy fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of New Jersey.
"You were operating as a community leader, a religious leader and a family man," U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano said before imposing the sentence, reported the Newark Star-Ledger. "At the same time you were holding yourself out in a false light."
Dwek, who is in federal custody for a massive bank fraud scheme involving millions of dollars and several New Jersey mayors, was a cooperating witness in the trial and admitted that he wrote checks to Ben Haim's organizations. For a 10 percent commission, Ben Haim would then deposit the checks into the organizations' bank accounts and wire the proceeds of those checks to a co-conspirator in Israel, who would then transfer the monies to bank accounts in various countries, including Argentina, Japan, and Switzerland.
The process continued with the money being wired into an underground money transfer network, where it would find its way to an illegal "cash house" in Brooklyn, operated by Aliva Aryeh Weiss, 57, an Asperger's syndrome patient who was said to have lived in "solitary squalor" as he participated in the scheme under Haim's direction.
Weiss was sentenced to five years in a mental health facility for his participation in the scheme.
Ben Haim's attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, asked Judge Pisano to give his client probation, arguing that his client should not be judged solely by the crime he committed but also his lifetime of good work, which included allowing drug addicts to live in his home.
"This is a man about whom there is much good," he said, according to the Star-Ledger.
U.S. attorneys said that what made Ben Haim's crime more egregious was his disregard that the money he was voluntarily laundering came from illegal sources.
In addition to the five-year prison term, Judge Pisano sentenced Ben Haim to three years of supervised release.