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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Satmar Hasidism Fund-Raiser for Thompson

One of the most prolific fund-raisers for the mayoral campaign of William C. Thompson Jr. is an admitted swindler who once cheated a tiny, economically depressed Wisconsin village out of $250,000 and later escaped from a federal prison.

He is also a polarizing figure in the Satmar sect of Hasidic Jews and was an instigator in a bitter, long-running dynastic struggle between two Satmar factions — even once provoking a brawl in a Brooklyn synagogue.

The fund-raiser, Jacob Brach, 55, gathered more than $30,000 in donations for the Thompson campaign this year, mainly from Satmar Hasidim and their business associates. He is the third largest bundler for Mr. Thompson, who has been raising money feverishly and making a strong push for Orthodox Jewish support in Brooklyn as he makes his second run for mayor.

All but one of the 180 contributions Mr. Brach collected were for $175 — the maximum that the city will match under its voluntary campaign financing program.

Mr. Thompson has a personal connection to Mr. Brach: his father, William C. Thompson Sr., a former judge, was a lawyer for Mr. Brach’s Satmar faction. The elder Mr. Thompson appeared in court, as part of the faction’s legal team, on a day in 2001 when Mr. Brach was questioned about his behavior and his criminal record.

Mr. Brach has not aided Mr. Thompson exclusively. In early 2012 he bundled at least $8,000 in donations for the mayoral campaign of Bill de Blasio, records indicate.

And he is not the only Satmar raising money in the mayor’s race, or the busiest. Herman Friedman, a 34-year-old Brooklyn entrepreneur, collected more than $80,000 for the campaign of Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker. Through a spokesman, Mr. Friedman said he advocated for various issues in Brooklyn but declined to provide details or be interviewed.

Mr. Brach, also known as Yossi Brach, came to the attention of law enforcement officials as early as 1988, when he was accused by Union Carbide of Canada and another Canadian company of bilking them out of more than $300,000 by offering them patent rights to a disposable toilet seat cover.

Two years later, Mr. Brach, who then lived in Kiryas Joel in Orange County, posed as the millionaire owner of a knitting mill and got officials in Randolph, Wis. (which had a population of 1,600), to lend him $250,000 to relocate there. Tommy Thompson, the governor at the time, appeared with Mr. Brach at a news conference saying the move would create hundreds of jobs.


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