Home Newark Press Releases 2014 Four Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, One of Their Sons Indicted in Divorce-Compelling Kidnap Conspiracy

Four Orthodox Jewish Rabbis, One of Their Sons Indicted in Divorce-Compelling Kidnap Conspiracy

U.S. Attorney’s Office May 22, 2014
  • District of New Jersey (973) 645-2888

TRENTON, NJ—A federal grand jury today indicted four Orthodox Jewish Rabbis and one of their sons for allegedly conspiring to kidnap and force Jewish men to grant their wives religious divorces, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

The indictment charges all five men with kidnapping conspiracy and variously charges the defendants with specific instances of kidnapping and attempted kidnapping. Rabbis Mendel Epstein, Martin Wolmark, Jay Goldstein, a/k/a “Yaakov,” and Binyamin Stimler had previously been charged, along with others, with conspiracy to commit kidnapping in a complaint unsealed October 10, 2013. Four of the others charged, including Jay Goldstein’s sons, Avrohom Goldstein, 34, and Moshe Goldstein, 31, both of Brooklyn, New York, have since pleaded guilty to extortion charges in connection with the case. The rest of the charges are pending.

David Epstein was previously charged with a 2009 kidnapping to compel a religious divorce, or get, in a complaint filed on May 15, 2014.

The defendants and charges are outlined in the following chart. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

Defendant

Count/Charge

Maximum Penalty

Mendel Epstein, 68, Lakewood, New Jersey

One—conspiracy to commit kidnapping

Life in prison

Five—attempted kidnapping

20 years in prison

Martin Wolmark, 56, Monsey, New York

One—conspiracy to commit kidnapping

Life in prison

Three—kidnapping

Five—attempted kidnapping

20 years in prison

Jay Goldstein, 60, Brooklyn

One—conspiracy to commit kidnapping

life in prison

Three—kidnapping

Four—kidnapping

Five—attempted kidnapping

20 years in prison

Binyamin Stimler, 38, Brooklyn

One—conspiracy to commit kidnapping

life in prison

Five—attempted kidnapping

20 years in prison

David Epstein, 39, Lakewood

One—conspiracy to commit kidnapping

life in prison

Two—kidnapping

Three—kidnapping

Four—kidnapping

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

The FBI began an undercover operation after becoming aware of incidents in which David Epstein and Jay Goldstein allegedly were involved in the kidnapping and assaulting of Orthodox Jewish men in order to compel them to grant religious divorces.

During the investigation, Mendel Epstein and Wolmark were recorded discussing plans to kidnap and torture victims. In an in-person meeting with undercover agents at his home on August 14, 2013, Mendel Epstein laid out the plans for a particular target, including trapping him in a van and assaulting him with an electric cattle prod.

At that meeting, Mendel Epstein stated that the kidnapping would cost $10,000 to pay for the rabbinical court, or beth din, to approve the kidnapping and use of violence and an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to pay for the “tough guys” who would conduct the beating of the husband. One of the undercover agents made a payment of approximately $10,000 to Mendel Epstein for the purpose of engaging his organization.

Law enforcement tracked subsequent planning phone calls discussing tactics and payment, as well as a trip by Mendel Epstein and Jay Goldstein to inspect the warehouse in Middlesex, New Jersey, where they planned to hold the victim. Undercover agents also recorded the convening of a beth din at Wolmark’s Monsey office and a subsequent meeting at Mendel Epstein’s home.

On October 9, 2013, Goldstein and Stimler traveled with others from New York to the warehouse to execute the kidnapping.

The team arrived at the warehouse in two dark minivans shortly after 8:00 p.m. Some put on masks and entered the warehouse office with one of the undercover agents, while others walked around the outside of the warehouse with flashlights. Members of the team went in and out of the office wearing disguises, including ski masks, Halloween masks, and bandanas. They discussed the plan. Among them, they carried rope, surgical blades, a screwdriver, plastic bags, and items used to ceremonially record a get.

Law enforcement moved into the office and arrested the eight members of the team, including Goldstein and Stimler.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Joseph Gribko and Sarah Wolfe of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Trenton.

The pending charges and allegations against related defendants are merely accusations, and they are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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