NYC man gets 4 years in prison for divorce coercion

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2015 2:57 PM

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A New York City man who used threats of violence to coerce a Jewish man to give his wife a religious divorce was sentenced Monday to four years in prison, becoming the first of 10 defendants nabbed in an FBI sting to learn his fate.

Moshe Goldstein, 32, of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty last year to crossing state lines to commit extortion. He also admitted that he restrained, assaulted and injured a man in Brooklyn in an attempt to extort a divorce in 2011.

Goldstein was arrested with his brother, his father and six other men in October 2013 in an undercover sting in which an FBI agent contacted two Orthodox rabbis seeking a divorce, known as a "get." Jewish law mandates that the get be presented by a husband to a wife to make a divorce official.

Rabbi Mendel Epstein was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and acquitted of attempted kidnapping, and Rabbi Martin Wolmark pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion. Both will be sentenced next month.

An undercover FBI agent posing as a woman looking to obtain a divorce from her unwilling husband testified that she got in touch with Epstein through Wolmark, who said she needed "special rabbis" to get the job done. She met with Epstein along with another undercover agent who posed as her brother.

Prosecutors said the team used brutal methods and tools, including handcuffs and electric cattle prods, to torture the men into granting gets.

Five other men who pleaded guilty will be sentenced this week.