Haim Aharon Yosefi, the ultra-Orthodox businessman suspected of baby trafficking and aiding and abetting Haredi draft dodgers, recently recounted his modus operandi to undercover reporters from Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth.
During those conversations, Yosefi spoke about an incident involving a “16 year old girl” and her baby, on which he’s now being investigated on suspicion of human trafficking and violating the adoption law.
“I’ll tell you a sad story,” Yosefi said in the meeting. “A troubled 16-year-old girl got pregnant by a young man. She wasn’t handled very well. We sent her to the United States and wanted to send the boy too, who’s 17.
We couldn’t. We were willing to pay $10,000 for him to receive a visa but he didn’t. We wanted him to be by her side, because of her mental state but the Americans refused.
The parents weren’t aware of any of this and only later found out.”
“What a mess,” Yosefi continued. “I was called in, and I sat with them for a couple of hours. Eventually she came back to Israel, and got pregnant again from the same guy. Six months later they also got divorced.”
On Sunday, after 10 days under arrest, Yosefi was sent home to house arrest. Below is the original story, as told by the alleged victim, detailing the threats, intimidation and deception.
“He started threatening me”
“When I was 14.5 I had a boyfriend and after a year of being together he got me pregnant,” said Meital (alias), the girl in the aforementioned story.
“I was a religious girl, not Haredi but it’s still terrifying to come out to your mom and tell her,” she says. “I considered an abortion, but when we got to the clinic it turned out I was already four months pregnant and I decided to keep the baby. My partner and I were then referred to Haim Yosefi.”
Yosefi, she says, presented himself as a “community rabbi helping a lot of girls in distress.”
“He offered to fly both of us out to the US until after I gave birth, at which point he would marry us. We were really young, but we thought we’ll raise the baby with the help of our parents. (Yosefi) then told my partner that because we’re so righteous and keeping the pregnancy, he’ll marry us later and help us financially.”
Meital ended up arriving in the US by herself, with her partner remaining in Israel. After touching down, Yosefi moved her to the home of an elderly woman in New Jersey.
“Yosefi forced me to wear a head covering and explained: ‘It’s so no one finds out you’re a teenager’,” recalled Meital. “I didn’t have anything there.
I was cooped up in my room the whole day, and on Saturdays he’d send me to spend time with other families. It was nightmare.
Two months on I was moved to a different family, and there was one other man—a senior doctor—who collaborated with Yosefi. I lived in deplorable conditions at the time.”
“At some point I told him I didn’t want it anymore,” Meital continues. “I wanted to go back home, I asked him to leave me alone. Let everybody find out.
I was broken. That’s when he began threatening me: ‘Do you have the $400,000 to pay me back?’ It was like he was extorting me.”
“You’re giving the baby to a poor family that doesn’t have any children, and this way they’ll take care of the kid and he’ll come back to you when he’s 18,” Meital claims Yosefi advised her when she was eight months pregnant.
Meital’s story is similar to those of other women who have been involved with Yosefi.
She underwent hardly any of the requisite check-ups, and a week before giving birth she was given papers to sign. Concurrently, the “visa documents” in English her partner claims to have signed turned out to be adoption papers.
“I had a normal birth, after which they let me see the newborn for all of two minutes,” Meital lamented. “And then the adopting family came in: a Haredi couple in their thirties. They gave me a gift of perfume. They said I was their salvation. What they should have said was that I was their victim.”
Two days after giving birth, and contrary to any established medical procedures, Meital was placed on a flight to Italy, where she met her partner. “I felt I was losing my mind,” she recounts. “A woman just moments after giving birth, without doctors or the baby, is running around Italy looking for a place to eat.”
‘Helpless in the face of a dangerous criminal’
After returning to Israel, Meital and her partner quickly married. “I was broken,” she explains. “The first thing we wanted to do was have another baby.
I felt that would be our only comfort. We got married and had an amazing baby girl, who doesn’t even know she has a biological brother who was kidnapped.”
Meanwhile, only a year-and-a-half after the birth, Meital’s mother found out the real story.
“I came in to Yosefi’s office and started screaming at him,” says the mother. “I told him I wanted the boy back, whatever it takes. He started talking all kinds of nonsense, like ‘the boy can’t be found’ and ‘some American businessman is responsible for it.’
“When I realized no one would help me deal with that man, I gave up,” she admitted. “I only know I have a grandson I’ve never met.”
In the decade since the incident, Meital has suffered the emotional consequences of Yosefi’s actions. “We ended up getting divorced,” she says. “At first my divorcee would not give up, and told Yosefi that if he didn’t give us the kid back we’ll file charges, but Yosefi immediately resorted to threats.”
Meital’s former husband confirms her account, and recounts his travails since. “For a decade fear has kept me quiet,” he says in desperation.
This week, Meital, her ex-husband and her mother gave testimonies to the police. In their case they weren’t paid any money, despite Meital claiming they were promised a payment by Yosefi.
‘Our client denies all charges’
“On the matter of the adoption,” said advocates Sagi Greenfeld and Yehonathan Dana on behalf of their client, “this is a cold case more than a decade old. Our client was investigated on the matter and gave his account, denying any involvement.”
“On the matter of marrying minors,” the lawyers continued, “our client denies any involvement or connection to the matter. It’s important to understand the court viewed the evidence of the case and released our client from arrest while noting he poses no danger and that these are old suspicions.”