Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Sentenced to More Than Three Years in Prison for Role in Conspiracy to Violently Extort Divorce Consent from Reluctant Husband
TRENTON, NJ—An Orthodox Jewish rabbi was sentenced today to 38 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to coerce a Jewish man to give his wife a religious divorce—referred to as a “get”—through threats of violence, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Martin Wolmark, 57, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson to an information charging him with conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to commit extortion. Judge Wolfson imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
On Aug. 7, 2013, Wolmark, an ordained Orthodox Jewish rabbi, spoke with a woman and her brother about obtaining a Jewish divorce from the woman’s recalcitrant husband. A get is a divorce document which, according to Jewish Law, must be presented by a husband to his wife to effect their divorce. Unbeknownst to Wolmark, the woman and the brother were actually undercover FBI agents.
During the conversation, which was recorded by law enforcement, Wolmark informed the agents that there were two ways to go about obtaining a get from such a recalcitrant husband, one of which was to “nail him.” Wolmark also told the agents that coercing the husband into giving a get could be expensive. He then recommended that the agents speak with his colleague, Mendel Epstein, 70, of Lakewood, New Jersey, who he knew had previously used violence to coerce recalcitrant husbands into giving gets to their wives. Wolmark then initiated a conference call with the agents and Epstein.
On Aug. 14, 2013, the agents met with Epstein at his home to discuss the case further. On Oct. 2, 2013, Wolmark convened a rabbinical court (a “beth din”) with Epstein and Jay Goldstein in his office in Suffern, New York. The purpose of this proceeding was to determine whether there were grounds under Jewish law to coerce the husband into giving the get. The female agent also attended and recorded the meeting. During this meeting, Epstein discussed openly the plan to kidnap and assault the purported husband in order to obtain the get.
On Oct. 9, 2013, a group of Wolmark’s conspirators—including Jay Goldstein, 61, Moshe Goldstein, 32, Avrohom Goldstein, 36, Simcha Bulmash, 32, Binyamin Stimler, 40, David Hellman, 33, and Sholom Shuchat, 31, all of Brooklyn, and Ariel Potash, 42, of Monsey, New York—traveled from New York to a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, with the intent of forcing the purported husband to give his wife a get by means of violence and threats of violence.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Wolfson ordered Wolmark to serve two years of supervised release and pay a $50,000 fine.
Avrohom Goldstein, Potash, Shuchat, Moshe Goldstein, Hellman, and Bulmash have all pleaded guilty to one count of traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion. Avrohom Goldstein and Potash were sentenced Nov. 19, 2015 to 45 and 14 months in prison, respectively. Shuchat was sentenced to time served on Nov. 19, 2015. Moshe Goldstein was sentenced Nov. 16, 2015 to 48 months in prison. Hellman and Bulmash were sentenced Nov. 17, 2015 to 44 and 48 months in prison, respectively.
Epstein, Jay Goldstein and Stimler were all convicted at trial on April 21, 2015. Epstein, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 15, 2015. Stimler and Jay Goldstein, both convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and attempted kidnapping, are scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 15, 2015 and Dec. 16, 2015, respectively.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys R. Joseph Gribko and Sarah Wolfe of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton.