A prosecutor said Wednesday that “the phone has not stopped ringing” with calls from Orthodox Jewish men who claim they were kidnapped by a rabbinical torture ring that used a cattle prod to force recalcitrant husbands to divorce their unhappy wives.
Assistant US Attorney Joseph Gribko said that while the feds were aware of 20 abductions whenthe unholy gang was busted last week, it’s unclear how many more will be uncovered.
“It’s larger than we thought,” Gribko said in Trenton federal court.
“The threats are not just in the past. This is an ongoing business.”
Gribko emphasized that there was “no real difference” between the defendants and the mob or the Crips or Bloods, in terms of the violence and pain they inflicted.
According to court papers, one alleged ringleader — prominent divorce mediator Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 68, of Brooklyn — brazenly bragged to undercover FBI agents that no man could resist the methods employed by his God-fearing “tough guys.”
“We take an electric cattle prod . . . You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute, the guy will know,” Epstein allegedly said.
The long-running scheme focused on making its targets sign a document known as a “get,” which is needed to dissolve an Orthodox Jewish marriage, according to the feds.
Without a religious divorce, an Orthodox woman can’t get remarried, even if she has already divorced her hubby in civil court.
Epstein, accused co-conspirator Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, and four alleged “kidnap team” members appeared in court seeking release on bond Wednesday after nearly a week in the slammer.
Magistrate Judge Douglas Arpert granted each man bond of between $500,000 and $5 million.
He also ordered them all held under house arrest and have no involvement with divorces.