An Israeli rabbi and an acolyte from an Orthodox Jewish community upstate were charged by the feds Tuesday in a scheme to kidnap and kill a fellow member of their sect for refusing to grant his wife a religious divorce.
Rabbi Aharon Goldberg, 55, and Shimen Liebowitz, 25, allegedly recruited a third man and paid him more than nearly $60,000 to carry out the unholy plan.
But the intended hatchet man identified as a fellow Orthodox Jew who “works as a consultant and provides investigative services” blew the whistle to the FBI and secretly recorded Goldberg and Liebowitz conspiring with him, court papers say.
Goldberg and Liebowitz, who are both members of the Hasidic Satmar sect, were busted while meeting in Central Valley on Tuesday to further their “chilling plot,” Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said.
A complaint filed in Manhattan federal court quotes Liebowitz as saying the intended victim is a taxi driver who occasionally travels to Montreal and could “miss a night, or even two or three” before his family grew concerned.
Early versions of the plot allegedly called for him to be lured to Pennsylvania or kidnapped in the Ukraine where he planned to travel in October for the Jewish New Year and forced to sign a religious divorce document known as a “get.”
But Goldberg later decreed he should instead be killed, telling the feds’ confidential source that “this is my agreement, no other rabbi will agree,” and Liebowitz claiming “his parents will be happy when it happens,” court papers say.
Both men were charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder and were ordered held without bail. They face life in the slammer if convicted.