Orthodox Jewish rabbis convicted over kidnapping ring that forced husbands to sign divorce forms

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015, 11:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 April, 2015, 3:32am

Three Orthodox Jewish rabbis were convicted in New Jersey of conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a scheme to force men to grant divorces to their unhappy wives under Jewish law.

Two of the rabbis were also convicted in federal court on Tuesday of attempted kidnapping, according to the office of Paul Fishman, US attorney for New Jersey. The case before US District Judge Freda Wolfson hinged in part on the testimony of an undercover FBI agent who posed as an Orthodox Jewish wife seeking a divorce.

An Orthodox Jewish woman cannot get a religious divorce unless her husband consents through a document known as a "get". Prosecutors said the rabbis operated a ring that kidnapped or tried to kidnap men and tortured them with beatings and stun guns until they agreed to divorce.

Undercover agents recorded meetings in which arrangements were made for the ring to kidnap one husband at a New Jersey warehouse for US$60,000.

Rabbis Mendel Epstein, Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler were found guilty of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.

The conspiracy charge carries the possible sentence of life in prison, according to the US Attorney's office.

Goldstein and Stimler also were convicted of attempted kidnapping. Epstein's son, David, was charged but found not guilty of conspiracy and kidnapping.

Although a wife can skip seeking a get and settle for a civil divorce, the separation without the husband's consent can result in her being ostracised. Experts say such kidnapping schemes are responses to so-called get abuse, in which husbands demand an unreasonably large share of the couple's communal property before granting the divorce.


Traffic app Waze will begin sending 'amber alerts' about hit-and-runs and kidnappings in Los Angeles

Alerts about hit-and-runs and kidnappings in Los Angeles will soon pop up on traffic app Waze, along with road closure information. The agreement is part of a data-sharing partnership between LA and the Google-owned tech company announced by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday. The app has already begun showing street closures and will start including hit-and-run alerts and so-called Amber Alerts sent out for kidnappings in the coming months.

Agence France-Presse