Rabbi set up by Solomon Dwek faces sentencing Tuesday
Rabbi Mordchai Fish is led from a bus behind federal court in Newark in 2009.
TRENTON — An Orthodox rabbi who pleaded guilty to using religious charities to launder nearly $1 million for convicted con man Solomon Dwek is set to be sentenced Tuesday morning in federal court in Trenton.
Mordchai Fish, 59, of Brooklyn, was among 46 people charged as a result of Dwek’s role as a federal informant, in a sweeping money laundering and corruption sting operation that became known as Bid Rig III. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine, although under federal sentencing guidelines is likely to receive far less.
Fish, in a plea last year, admitted that he began meeting with Dwek in early 2008 and agreed to a series of transactions that funneled money through several community charities which Fish controlled. Prosecutors said the checks were deposited into bank accounts held in the names of the charities, and Fish would subsequently arrange to make cash available through an underground money transfer network that stretched from Brooklyn to Israel. He told the judge that he engaged in approximately 15 money laundering transactions with Dwek, helping convert approximately $900,000 in checks into more than $800,000 in cash, after receiving his cut.
According to criminal complaints filed in the case, Fish was among the most furtive of those caught on surveillance recordings by Dwek. He would constantly change cell phones and speak in an amalgam of English, Yiddish and Hebrew, to set up meetings throughout Borough Park to launder money. He spoke in code, using Talmudic references to set up meetings to exchange cash and worried aloud about electronic bugs.
Dwek, who entered into a cooperation deal with federal prosecutors after he was arrested for trying to pass $50 million in bad checks at a bank drive-through window, was used to set up Fish and others by repeatedly telling them that he was looking to pull cash out of his bankrupt real estate empire and a knock-off designer handbag business.
The focus of the case ultimately turned to political corruption, when the FBI had Dwek pose as a corrupt developer by the name of David Esenbach, who gave out FedEx envelopes stuffed with cash to anyone who would help expedite a series of phony real estate deals.
The sting, which became public in July 2009, led to the arrests of three mayors, two legislators, five rabbis and dozens of public officials and candidates for office, as well as a man charged with brokering the sale of a human kidney.
So far, 32 people have pleaded guilty in the case, four have been convicted, two were acquitted, charges against four were dropped and one has died.