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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Last rabbi in NJ corruption case is sentenced

Solomon Dwek

TRENTON, N.J. — The last of a group of rabbis arrested in New Jersey's largest-ever corruption sting was sentenced Thursday, in a case that sent shockwaves through Orthodox Jewish enclaves from the Jersey Shore to Brooklyn.

Lavel Schwartz was one of five rabbis and more than 40 people arrested in July 2009 in a massive money-laundering and political corruption sting that included Jewish leaders, New Jersey politicians and a man convicted of trafficking in human organs.

Schwartz was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Trenton to 12 months and one day in prison.

The 61-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., resident pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy last May, admitting he conspired to launder illegal proceeds through purported religious charities run by his brother, Rabbi Mordchai Fish.

Fish, who was arrested in the same sting, was sentenced in July to nearly four years in federal prison after pleading guilty.

Prosecutors say Fish and Schwartz laundered money for Solomon Dwek, a disgraced real estate and admitted Ponzi schemer who became a government informant in 2006 after his arrest on a $50 million bank fraud.

Dwek told Fish, Schwartz and others in the sting that the money he needed laundered was proceeds from the sale of illegal handbags or assets he needed to hide from bankruptcy proceedings.

Fish and Schwartz would take Dwek's checks and deposit them with a religious charity Fish controlled, then give Dwek back cash minus a 10 percent commission, according to court papers.

Schwartz admitted to engaging in ten transactions with Dwek, converting between $200,000 and $400,000 in checks into a similar amount of cash, minus the 10 percent fee.

Dwek is now serving a six year prison term for the bank fraud charge that lead to his becoming a government cooperator.

About three-quarters of the defendants arrested in 2009 have pleaded guilty or been convicted.

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