Podiatrist Ira Bernstein negotiated a $100,000 price for his wife’s murder, conspiring with his girlfriend and a police informant to have a driver run down the mother of his children and claim her death was an accident, a Rockland prosecutor said Thursday.
Bernstein talked the assassination price down from $200,000, prosecutor Richard Kennison Moran told Judge David Zuckerman at a bail hearing in the case.
“The negotiations and plans are all on audio, videotape and wiretaps,” Moran said. “She would be hit by a car and the person would stay with her” rather than fleeing the scene.
Moran released the fresh details in arguing whether Zuckerman should maintain Bernstein’s $600,000 bail.
Moran wanted bail of $1 million, but Zuckerman maintained the cash or bond amount set by Justice Thomas Newman during Bernstein’s arraignment Tuesday in Ramapo court.
Bernstein’s lover, Kelly Gribeluk, 35, the mother of three children, remains jailed on $600,000 bail. She has a new lawyer, Barry Weiss, through the county’s assigned counsel program.
Bernstein’s attorney, Kenneth Gribetz, said after court that his client’s parents and siblings will put up property and cash toward his bail to get him released from county jail in New City.
Gribetz, a former county district attorney, had asked for $25,000 cash bail.
Gribetz said Bernstein’s release had been delayed because properties he owns with his wife Susan are part of their ongoing divorce case, and prosecutors opposed using the co-owned property for bail
Gribetz called $600,000 bail for a non-murder case “ludicrous and Draconian.”
He said Bernstein doesn’t have a criminal record, is not a flight risk, and has “deep roots in the community’ with two podiatry offices, three children, and family in Rockland. He said Bernstein is not a “threat to anyone.”
Gribetz also suggested arguments he and co-counsel Deborah Wolikow Loewenberg may make if the case goes to trial.
“A lot of the recordings were instigated by the informant,” Gribetz told Zuckerman.
Moran said Bernstein has millions of dollars in assets and could flee.
“He was willing to pay $100,000 to murder his wife,” Moran said. “The fact is he faces 25 years in prison and he has the means financially to get away.”
A Rockland grand jury is scheduled to hear evidence in the case on Friday.
Both Bernstein and Gribeluk pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Ramapo Justice Court to felony counts of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree solicitation and fourth-degree conspiracy, and a misdemeanor count of fourth-degree solicitation.
Gribetz said Bernstein is “very traumatized now and it’s difficult to talk with him. He’s been on suicide watch. We want to get him out so we can talk to him about his defense.”
Ramapo police continue to investigate Bernstein, 42, and Gribeluk, 35, who were arrested following a month-long investigation sparked when the person the couple reached out to about killing Bernstein’s wife reported the plot to the Spring Valley police.
Police said Bernstein and Gribeluk also wanted two United Healthcare insurance investigators beaten up, allegedly because they were going to refer potential fraud charges involving Bernstein’s podiatry business to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said Bernstein had been paying the rent for Gribeluk on the nine-bedroom Montebello home where she was living. She had once worked as a funeral home embalmer and had worked more recently at the now-closed MediSpa.
She has visitation with her three children, after a bitter custody battle that included a fight over the children’s religious upbringing.Bernstein, who also lives in Montebello but in a separate residence, runs offices in Ramapo and Bardonia.
He’s lost two malpractice lawsuits since 2014 totaling more than $2 million. There are several financial judgments and lawsuits against him on file with the Rockland County Clerk’s Office.
By Steve Lieberman – Lohud.com