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Brothers plead guilty in Orthodox Jewish divorce scandal

March 12, 2014 4:50:15 AM PDT
The guilty pleas are starting to mount in a plot to force Orthodox Jewish husbands to grant divorces to their wives.

Two brothers from Brooklyn admitted in federal court this week that they crossed state lines from New York to New Jersey to strong arm one husband into agreeing to a "get," a religious divorce, through threats of violence.

Avrohom Goldstein, 34, and Moshe Goldstein, 31, both pleaded guilty to traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion. They also said they and others restrained, assaulted and injured a man in Brooklyn in an attempt to extort a divorce in 2011.

A third man, 31-year-old David Hellman, pleaded guilty last week.

The brothers each face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 fines when they're sentenced in June.

The two rabbies said to be ringleaders of the group, Mendel Epstein and Martin Wolmark, have pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence.

The FBI arrested the men last October.

The investigation revealed that unhappy Orthodox Jewish wives who wanted a divorce were paying $100,000 to the rabbis. In exchange, the rabbis would facilitate divorce, frequently by hiring armed thugs kidnap the husbands and beat them until they agreed.

The investigation also revealed the activity had been going on for 20 years or more.

Epstein claims to have been involved in more than 2,000 divorces and has advocated for a group called "A Jewish Wife's Rights."

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