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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brooklyn man gets 18 months for helping N.J. rabbi launder money

DEAL — A Brooklyn man who admitted supplying cash to a money laundering operation run by a Monmouth County rabbi was sentenced in federal court today to 18 months in prison.

Schmuel Cohen, a 25-year-old Israeli citizen, pleaded guilty in April after being arrested in last year's massive FBI sting. He faced up to two years in prison under the terms of his deal with prosecutors, said Maureen Nakly, an assistant U.S. attorney.

U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano ordered him to surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons within six weeks.

Cohen admitted illegally supplying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim, who has since pleaded guilty to using religious charities to launder $1.5 million for a government informant.

Ben Haim was among five rabbis charged in the epic sting last July. The probe hinged on a former rabbinical student, Solomon Dwek, from Deal who began secretly recording conversations for prosecutors after being charged with bank fraud in 2006. His work ensnared 46 people, including politicians charged with taking bribes and rabbis accused of laundering money.

Cohen said he worked with a contact in Israel to supply Ben Haim with cash, which authorities say the rabbi used to launder checks for Dwek, the informant. In some cases, Dwek claimed he needed to hide the money from a bankruptcy proceeding. Others times, he said the checks came from criminal schemes, including the sale of knock-off Gucci and Prada handbags.

Dwek plead guilty in October to charges in connection with a $50 million bank fraud.

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