U.S. Congressman Tied to Rabbi Pinto Indicted on Fraud Charges

N.Y. Rep. Michael Grimm pleads not guilty to 20-count federal indictment; Grimm also embroiled in Israeli corruption probe, centering on ties to a celebrity rabbi.

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Michael Grimm
Michael GrimmCredit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

A Republican congressman from New York City has been indicted on mail, wire and tax fraud charges, but he says the case is trumped up.

Rep. Michael Grimm was arrested Monday and pleaded not guilty to a 20-count federal indictment. The ex-FBI agent has been released on $400,000 bail.

Grimm says the government framed him. He says investigators couldn't make a campaign finance case against him stick, so they trumped up fraud accusations.

He says he is the victim of a "political witch hunt."

Grimm is charged with engaging in schemes to underreport wages for restaurant workers, including some who were in the country illegally. He is accused of concealing more than $1 million in sales and wages.

Grimm left the FBI in the mid-2000s. He was elected in 2010.

The congressman is alleged to have raised as much as half a million dollars from Israeli-American businessmen affiliated with Rabbi Pinto for his 2010 election campaign. This month the FBI arrested Grimm’s former girlfriend Diana Durand on charges of funneling thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Grimm's campaign.

Pinto reportedly asked Grimm for help when the rabbi was allegedly blackmailed by people claiming they would reveal his family's medical information. Grimm was later suspected by the FBI of taking part in the blackmail itself and the rabbi testified against him.

Grimm, who represents New York City's borough of Staten Island, grew up in New York, dropped out of college to join the Marines and served in the Gulf War, then joined the FBI as a clerk while going to college at night.

He eventually became a special agent investigating financial fraud and organized crime before leaving the FBI to open a health food store.

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