Orthodox Hedge Fund Manager Arrested in N.Y. Listed by Netanyahu as Potential Donor

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Federal prosecutor Preet Bharara at a press conference in New York.
Federal prosecutor Preet Bharara at a press conference in New York.Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

An former hedge fund manager and Chabad philanthropist who Benjamin Netanyahu once listed as a potential donor was arrested in New York on suspicion of bribing Norman Seabrook, the head of the city’s 9,000 strong Corrections Officers Union.

Murray Huberfeld was arrested by the FBI on suspicion that he transferred $60,000 in cash to Seabrook and funded several of his trips abroad, including one to Israel. In exchange, Seabrook allegedly made illegal wire transfers of $20 million dollars from the union’s pension fund to Huberfeld’s Platinum Partner firm for investment. The FBI alleges that Seabrook was unhappy with the size of the funds transferred to him and that these were slated to increase in the future.

Huberfeld, through a family foundation, is a major donor to Chabad institutions in the U.S., Israel and around the world. He also donates substantial funds to religious institutions on both sides of the Green Line in Israel. Huberfeld is also a member of the board of directors of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre: as such, he was one of the guests to attend Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress. In 2008, he accompanied President George Bush’s solidarity mission to Israel as a member of a delegation led by Sheldon Adelson.

Huberfeld’s name appears in Netanyahu’s own handwriting in a 2007 list of potential political donors uncovered by Yedioth Achronot in 2010. Netanyahu affixed the number one next to Huberfeld’s name as well as that of David Bonder, who founded Platinum Partners with him. They were considered to be top potential for political donations.

The current affair is linked to an ongoing FBI probe of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s fundraising operation though Jona Rechnitz, an Orthodox investor in New York. Rechnitz, a de Blasio donor, is accused of bribing top New York police officers in exchange for favors. He has been identified by New York media as the state witness in the Seabrook investigation as well. According to the FBI’s complaint sheet, the unnamed Rechnitz served as a go between Seabrook and Huberfeld. He brought the bribe money to the former and accompanied him on his jaunts abroad as well.

Huberfeld himself has a very checkered reputation in financial circles. He was convicted of fraud in 1993 for paying someone to take the brokerage license test in his place. He paid a $4.7 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1998 after he was accused of bank fraud. His Platinum fund has enjoyed remarkable financial success, though this has been accompanied by a stream of allegations of questionable practices. Among other things, the group set up a fund that employed a Los Angeles rabbi who tricked elderly hospice patients into providing their names so that the fund could set up annuities in their name, according to the SEC.

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