Ofer Biton Former Aide To A Rabbi, Linked To Investigation Of Illegal Drug Dealing
The Israeli national at the center of a probe into a Staten Island congressman’s 2010 election bid was a suspect in a sprawling ecstasy drug investigation, prosecutors said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.
Prosecutors are trying to flip Ofer Biton into ratting on Rep. Michael Grimm (R-SI), and are using a decade-old search warrant to convince a judge to keep him behind bars on a visa-fraud charge so he doesn’t flee to Israel, sources said.
Federal agents in 2002 found a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol while searching his apartment complex during a drug probe, prosecutors said.
Investigators searching the Southern California apartment complex where Biton then lived also discovered a California driver's license, a Social Security card, and other documents in the name of "Haim Morziane," which prosecutors said was an alias used at the time by Biton.
Despite having the alias printed on it, that California driver's license clearly bore Biton's photograph, Brooklyn Assistant US Attorney Anthony Capozzolo told a judge yesterday.
Defense attorney John Meringolo countered that Biton is a businessman who owns several restaurants in Manhattan and insisted that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Officials said that Biton was never charged in that 2002 ecstasy probe.
“The only issue here is risk of flight,” said Brooklyn federal Magistrate Judge Marilyn Go.
The judge said she was "concerned," because Biton's past use of identification cards issued in the name of an alias suggests he has skills that could be used in an effort to flee the United States if he makes bail.
Biton remains in custody, but the judge said she will reconsider Meringolo's request to allow him out on bail at a future court date.
Biton raised thousands of dollars for Grimm during his 2010 campaign, which the FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating for financial irregularities, a source said.