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.

Shlomo Shamir
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Shlomo Shamir

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

Kassin, 79, was arrested in July 2009 as part of a group of 44 businessmen, public officials and notable members of the New York Jewish community who were all suspected of money laundering and illegal financial transactions.

Rabbi Saul Kassin walks with his entourage after pleading guilty to money laundering, March 28, 2011.Credit: AP

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 more than three years.

Kassin allegedly 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 case was a great source of shame for Brooklyn's veteran Syrian community which has been well-respected and active in the Jewish world. Many of its members are considerably affluent.

Kassin was brought before a federal judge in Trenton, New Jersey, where he confessed to all the charges against him.

According to local media, the spiritual leader's confession was in exchange for a plea bargain in which he would not have to serve jail-time.

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

Only a handful of those arrested in the sting have admitted to the crimes alleged to them.