FBI investigators are questioning leaders in Williamsburg’s Satmar Hasidic community in their expanding inquiry into Mayor de Blasio’s fund-raising practices.
Rabbi and political fund-raiser Moishe Indig was questioned by FBI agents on Wednesday. Indig referred them to his attorney but agents seized one of his cellphones.
“They told him, ‘It’s all about Bill,’ and they want more information from him,” said one source close to Indig, a de Blasio ally.
“They have an interest in Moishe because they’re digging into de Blasio’s fund-raising tactics and they want to know what favors they [Hasidic community members] are getting back from the mayor,” the source added.
Agents visited Rabbi David Niederman on Thursday, but Niederman referred them to his lawyers, two sources said.
Federal authorities on Thursday arrested Williamsburg political operative Yitzchok “Isaac” Sofer on charges he lied about his income to obtain $30,000 in food stamps.
The FBI interviewed Sofer two weeks ago about mayoral fund-raising and influence peddling, but he refused to rat on his friends at City Hall.
The sources believe the FBI brought the food-stamp charge to squeeze information from him.
“They know Sofer is a progressive Hasidic Jew who is friendly with all these guys in the administration including [top de Blasio aides] Avi Fink and Emma Wolfe,” a City Hall source said.
“People in the community come to him to fix their problems and he has amassed his influence.”
Indig, Niederman and Sofer are influential leaders in the Satmar community, one of the city’s largest Hasidic sects.
De Blasio aggressively courted the Satmars in his 2013 mayoral campaign.
It was Indig who convinced leaders of the Satmars’ Aroni faction to shift their support from Christine Quinn to de Blasio two weeks before the contentious 2013 Democratic primary, sources said.
Sofer said at the time that de Blasio’s support for private religious schools was a main reason for the endorsement.
Sofer and Indig were the hosts of an Oct. 3, 2013, fund-raising event for de Blasio, according to the mayor’s campaign Web site.
Indig, who landed on de Blasio’s “Worst Landlords” list back when the mayor was public advocate, has attended at least two meetings at City Hall with Niederman and other religious leaders, according to the mayor’s official schedule.
But Indig has never registered as a lobbyist despite advocating on issues important to the Orthodox community, sources said.
“Developers go to Indig with issues with their properties, hoping to get permits expedited or rezonings approved by the city,”.
“People hire him privately to get things done.”
Sofer, 39, works in government relations for the Central United Talmudical Academy, which is tied to the Aroni faction.
The yeshiva’s lobbyist, Capalino Company, pressed Fink and other City Hall officials in early 2015 to open a universal-pre-K program at the site.
The FBI raided the academy’s offices in March, possibly as part of a probe into the use of federal school-lunch funds, reports said.
CUTA spokesman Michael Tobman called Sofer’s arrest a “personal matter having nothing to do with the larger community or its institutions.” Sofer did not return a message seeking comment.