New York Rabbi confesses to money laundering

Rabbi Saul Kassin, spiritual leader of New York's Syrian Jewish community is one of 44 arrested for alleged involvement in an international corruption ring, trafficking in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags.

Haaretz, Israel/March 29, 2011

Rabbi Saul Kassin, a well-known spiritual leader in the Syrian Jewish community of Brooklyn, has confessed to using a religious charity for money laundering.

Kassin, a 79-year-old rabbi, was arrested in July 2009, part of a group of 44 businessmen, public officials and notable members of the New York Jewish community under suspicions of money laundering and illegal financial transactions.

The sting was the result of an extensive corruption investigation that began as a probe into an international money laundering ring that trafficked in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags.

The corruption and money laundering cases are tied together by a single witness who cooperated with police for about three years.

Kassin, who operated within a network, is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey, including about $3 million handed to them by the witness over the past two years alone. The network's alleged offenses range from trafficking kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags.

The case was a great source of shame for Brooklyn's veteran Syrian community that is well-respected and active in the Jewish world. Many of its members are considerably affluent.

Kassin, an elderly gentleman with a long white beard, was brought before a federal judge in Trenton, New Jersey, where he confessed to all the charges against him.

The spiritual leader's confession was in exchange for a plea bargain, according to local media. By admitting to his wrongdoing, the elderly rabbi would not have to serve jail-time.

Kassin will have to pay a-quarter-million dollar fine, and the 367,000 dollars in his possession when he was arrested will be confiscated.

Only a handful of those arrested in the sting have admitted to any wrongdoing.

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