The FBI arrested four men—two described as rabbis—who allegedly ran a kidnapping and extortion ring that helped ultra-Orthodox Jewish women get divorced. Jewish tradition requires a woman to obtain a ritual divorce, or "get," from her husband before she can remarry in the faith. This can sometimes prove difficult, which is why Rabbi Mendel Epstein and his associates—Rabbi Martin Wolmark, Ariel Potash, and a defendent named "Yaakov"—allegedly offered to kidnap recalcitrant husbands and torture them with cattle prods until they gave up the get.
According to the criminal complaint, undercover FBI agents posing as wives desperate for a divorce conducted numerous incriminating telephone conversations with Epstein and Wolmark. (A woman whose husband will not consent is known as an agunah.) During one conversation, Wolmark assured an undercover agent that Epstein could get a husband to agree to a get if he could be lured to New York, where Epstein and henchmen would "harass or nail" the husband. A warehouse in New Jersey was ultimately selected for the potential kidnapping.
During another phone conversation, Epstein allegedly went even further, explaining, "Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him up and torturing him and then getting him to give the get." Epstein allegedly said that his team would "take an electric cattle prod [and] put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know." Cattle prods were chosen because they would not leave a mark, making goy police less inclined to investigate if the victim reported the crime.
Epstein also allegedly told the undercover investigator that he'd need approval for the kidnapping from a rabbinical court, which would cost $10,000. On top of that, investigators say Epstein asked for $50,000 to $60,000 to pay for the "tough guys" to conduct the beating and obtain the forced get. His son, Epstein allegedly said, is one of the "tough guys" and "uses karate skills" to "facilitate the divorces."
According to the complaint, Epstein, who lives in Ocean County, New Jersey, said he conducted such kidnappings about once a year, but it's unclear if any such kidnapping had ever taken place. But last week a rabbinical court in Monsey, Rockland County authorized the use of violence to obtain a get, authorities allege. And Failed Messiah reports that "at least one haredi man previously [said] he was kidnapped by haredim working with this group, beaten and extorted."
Last night, F.B.I. agents carried out raids at homes, yeshivas, and synagogues in South Brooklyn and Monsey, arresting the four defendants and others who have not yet been charged. In a statement, FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman said said, "Mendel Epstein talked about forcing compliance through the use of 'tough guys' who utilize electric cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and place plastic bags of the heads of husbands."