Two rabbis are among the 10 people who allegedly plotted to kidnap and torture Orthodox Jewish men with cattle prods to pressure them into divorcing their wives.
According to the New York Daily News, Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 68, Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, Ariel Potash, 40, a man identified only as “Yaakov” and six other men were arrested in New York and New Jersey Wednesday night after they allegedly ran an operation charging wives up to $100,000 to kidnap their husbands and force them to agree to a religious divorce.
As CBS New York points out, under Jewish law, a wife will only be granted a divorce if she is presented with a document called a “get.” A woman without a “get” is forbidden to date or remarry within the Jewish faith.
The scheme had been going on for around 20 years, CBS New York reports. Prosecutors allege that there had been more than 20 kidnappings during that time. The operation came to light when an undercover FBI agent posing as an Orthodox Jewish wife went to the rabbis and said she wanted a divorce from her husband, who would not present her with a “get.”
“There are a couple of ways to do that,” Rabbi Wolmark said in a recorded phone conversation, CBS New York said. “You have to, we have to, convene a special beth din and see if there are grounds to ... coerce him on the ‘get.’”
“In other words, you need to get him to New York where someone either can harass him or nail him. Plain and simple,” he said, according to the criminal complaint.
Wolmark then referred the undercover FBI agent to Rabbi Epstein, who went into detail about what they were going to do to coerce her husband to grant the divorce.
“Basically, what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the ‘get,’” Epstein said, according to CBS New York. “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.”
In the complaint, Epstein said they would get “tough guys” who would use “electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and place plastic bags over the heads of husbands” in order to get what they wanted.
“We take an electric cattle prod,” Epstein said, according to the criminal complaint. “If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move, you put in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know.”
As the New York Times reports, Rabbi Epstein stressed the importance of leaving no physical marks on the husband, in case he went to the police. If there was no evidence, the cops likely wouldn’t pursue the issue.
“Basically the reaction of the police is, if the guy does not have a mark on him then, uh, is there some Jewish crazy affair here, they don’t want to get involved,” Rabbi Epstein said, according to the criminal complaint.
According to the Associated Press, Rabbis Epstein and Wolmark, Ariel Potash, “Yaakov” and six other men appeared in federal court in Trenton on Thursday.