Celebrity Rabbi Accepts Plea Bargain in Police Bribery Case

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto will admit to bribing an Israeli police officer in 2012 for access to his police file, officials say.

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Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto
Rabbi Yoshiyahu PintoCredit: Ilan Assayag

A multimillionaire Israeli celebrity rabbi with a following in the U.S. has accepted a plea bargain in a high-profile bribery case and could face a year in prison, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, bringing closer an end to one of the rabbi’s various legal sagas.

As part of the plea bargain, the official said, Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto will admit to bribing a senior Israeli police officer in 2012 for access to his police file.

Israeli prosecutors will seek a year-long jail sentence for Pinto, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity pending an official announcement.

Pinto is considered one of Israel’s wealthiest rabbis, amassing his fortune while serving as spiritual guru to the rich and powerful in Israel, New York, and elsewhere in the world. The Israeli edition of Forbes Magazine ranked him in 2012 as Israel’s seventh richest rabbi, with an estimated net worth of about $19 million.

But the celebrity and riches also attracted the watchful eyes of law enforcement both in Israel and the U.S.

In Israel, according to local media reports, the police began tracking Pinto after he approached Efraim Bracha, formerly the head of the investigations department in the Israeli police who was reportedly an adherent of the rabbi, and offered him a large sum of money in exchange for information on an investigation involving him.

That investigation concerned suspicions of a Pinto aide embezzling donations to one of the rabbi’s charitable institutions and selling food intended for Holocaust survivors, according to reports. Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri would only say the case remained under investigation.

In the separate bribery case, Israel’s Justice Ministry said Menashe Arbiv, while serving as head of the national police’s elite anti-corruption unit, received “benefits” from associates of Pinto. Arbiv had previously served as Israel’s police representative in the U.S., coordinating with U.S. security organizations on investigations.

In New York, Pinto’s congregation has been connected to a U.S. probe into Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican congressman from New York, for possible campaign finance violations.

A spokesman for Pinto could not be reached.

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