Chosen: Crimes and Misdemeanors

By Shmarya Rosenberg

The Weekly Blotter

Rabbi Milton Yehoshua Balkany, the brother-in-law of convicted felons Sholom M. Rubashkin (Agriprocessors, 86 counts of financial fraud) and Moshe Rubashkin (bank fraud and other counts), was sentenced to four years in federal prison for blackmail and extortion. Balkany tried to extort hedge fund mega millionaire Steve Cohen and SAC Capital. In what has been called a highly unusual move, the judge sent Balkany into custody immediately rather than allowing him to remain free on bail until turning himself in on a future scheduled date, because she deemed Balkany a serious flight risk. (New York Post)

Many ultra-Orthodox community members wrote letters to the the judge in Balkany’s case praising Balkany’s generosity and kindness. One of those letter writers is the chaplain of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Rabbi Moshe J. Wulliger. Wulliger wrote his letter on an official agency letterhead bearing the governor’s name, and extolled Balkany’s humanitarian efforts, especially his work with the developmentally disabled. What Wulliger failed to mention is that Balkany misappropriated a $700,000 HUD grant meant to build classrooms for…disabled and special needs children. In 2004, Balkany made a deal with the feds to repay the entire $700,000 that included banning him from applying for future grants. In return, the government let Balkany avoid prison – a deal Balkany was not able to get this time. (Failed Messiah)

Israel’s former president, Moshe Katsav, was convicted of rape in December and his sentencing hearing took place last week. Now a group of Zionist Orthodox rabbis have sent the former president a fan letter. The rabbis – at least one of whom, Shlomo Aviner, has himself been accused of sexual crimes – told Katsav (who is also Orthodox) that they still believe he is innocent, despite the conviction. “To our country’s former president, fear not because the truth will come out,” the letter begins. “And even if it takes it’s time, it will be revealed, and all those who pursue lies will be ashamed, the rabbis wrote. “All of the people of Zion are sighing and groaning under the burden of the poisonous media, waiting for the return of pureness to our public life and hoping for the day when the injustice will be removed and the truth will come out – and then many, many people will be redeemed and rejoice with you.” The rabbis are not privy to any secret information that proves Katsav innocent – they simply choose not to believe the secular court that found Katsav guilty. Katsav will be sentenced March 8th. (Ynet)

An unnamed ultra-Orthodox man from the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem was arrested for home invasion and rape. His victims are also ultra-Orthodox and live in a nearby neighborhood. (Jerusalem Post)

An Israeli court ruled that Felix Prakopetz, an Orthodox Jew and an Israeli citizen accused in Switzerland of stealing $2.3 million worth of diamonds, is extraditable. Prakopetz wants to serve his sentence in Israel. No word yet on the Swiss government’s reaction to his request. Prakopetz is currently on house arrest. (Ynet)

California’s Chabad branch lost a suit against the estate and widow of Roland Arnall. Arnall, who was the billionaire owner of ACC Capital Holdings, the parent company of Ameriquest mortgage, and a former US Ambassador to the Netherlands, died in 2008. Rabbi Baruch Shlomo Cunin claimed Arnall verbally pledged $18 million for a new Chabad education center. Arnall’s widow Dawn disagreed. Judge Maray Ann Murphy noted that, “It is not for the court to decide whether Mr. Arnall actually promised $18 million to Chabad. It is for the court to determine, based on the testimony of the witnesses and the exhibits admitted in evidence, whether Chabad proved by a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Anrall promised Chabad $18 million.” She found that Chabad’s lawyers failed to offer such proof, noting that Chabad’s case was hurt by “discrepancies and lack of corroboration.” (Contra Costa Times)

The Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, an ultra-Orthodox social service agency based in Brooklyn, has allegedly violated and skirted mandatory reporting law, allowing sexual abusers of children to go unreported. The law mandates Ohel and other medical, psychiatric, and educational professionals report abuse and suspected abuse to law enforcement or child protective services. Ohel allegedly failed to follow the law in one case and skirted the law in others, resulting in additional children being molested. “They been the point men for the community [on this issue] and they have accepted the approach of the community, which is never to go to the police. They endlessly [hide] behind technicalities,” Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University said. Ohel “is the problem, in a nutshell. They [have shown that they are] not able to deal with the situation that they are legally required and morally required [to deal with]. The workers are all sincere people,” the rabbi added. “Solutions [to the current problem] would involve changing [Ohel’s] leadership. [And] you will know there’s change when they start reporting.” (The Jewish Week)

Almost two dozen members of an Israeli crime family were arrested in a billion shekel ($273 million USD) fraud. The charges include money laundering, fraud, tax fraud, false reporting to the tax authorities, forgery, extortion, illegal loan sharking, conspiracy, fraudulent receiving and import and export violations. (Ha’aretz)

Drug Enforcement Administration agents and other law enforcement officials raided six South Florida pain clinics and arrested twenty-two people, including five doctors, on state and federal drug trafficking charges.  The accused allegedly illegally dispensed potent prescription drugs across the country. The fed’s year-long undercover investigation, Operation Pill Nation, focused on storefront clinics in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties of South Florida. Authorities say the clinic have become a national clearinghouse for illegal prescription drugs and highly addictive painkillers like oxycodone. “Among those arrested on Wednesday was Dr. Zvi Perper, who owns Delray Pain Management in Delray Beach. Dr. Perper, whose father is Dr. Joshua Perper, the Broward County medical examiner, had no comment as he was led away in handcuffs and beige medical scrubs.” (New York Times)

Shmarya Rosenberg publishes His reporting has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Ha’aretz, Jerusalem Post, Forward, JTA, Village Voice and many other publications. He was named to both the Forward 50 and the Heeb 100 in 2008.

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