Mafia-style Bribery Charges for Ultra-Orthodox Williamsburg Jews

By Kirstin Cole (WPIX)
June 21, 2012

Witness tampering, coercion, threats to shut down a business. It's all playing out in Brooklyn Supreme Court and the suspects are not who you might think they'd be: four men belonging to the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect of Hassidim who live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes partnered with the NYPD in 2009 to get the usually quiet and insular Jewish community to give up their pedophiles and rapists--without fear from the victims of being harassed and intimidated. Since then, they've prosecuted 139 bad guys. Add a few more to the list.

This morning, four men, including three sons of a prominent Rabbi who oversees Kosher certification of Williamsburg restaurants, were arrested for bribery, harassment, coercion and other charges.

It's part of a larger problem within the Orthodox Jewish community, according to law enforcement. That victims of sex crimes are encouraged, even outright threatened, to keep their charges from police, instead allowing it to be handled by Rabbis, who all too frequently sweep it under the rug to allow the abuser to abuse many, many victims. One of the victims was a woman who says she was sexually assaulted as a 12 year old and offered a $500,000 bribe to just "go away.

Abraham Rubin is accused of being the ring leader, offering a half-a-million-dollar bribe to a now 17-year-old woman and her 22-year-old boyfriend, who runs a Kosher restaurant, to flee the U.S. and go to Israel. All so the young woman's former "counselor", 53-year-old Nechemya Weberman, can't be prosecuted for child molestation. Weberman is considered an informal Rabbi in his community, although he is neither a Rabbi, nor an accredited counselor.

"It's a coterie of peole within the community that are hellbent on intimidating," said District Attorney Hynes of the tactics allegedly used by Rubin, and three Berger brothers, Hertzka, Joseph and Jacob.

Hynes is aggressively pursuing the four, hitting them with a laundry list of charges for allegedly offering the bribe, making threatening phone calls, even ripping down the kosher certification in the alleged victim's boyfriend's restaurant--which would put him out of business in the neighborhood of observant jews.

"At least with victims of the mafia I can offer them protective custody. But in this group of people, the thought of being removed is impossible. So they make threats to not have their arranged marriages, to have their kids thrown out of yeshiva, to lose their apartments," was how D.A. Hynes described how the year long campaign of intimidation within the community worked.

All four men pleaded not guilty in court today and each made bail, some of it as high as 75 thousand dollars. Rubin was ordered to surrender his passport as the prosecutor stated the men all have access to ready cash within the community, and could easily flee to Israel.

Four separate attorneys represented the men, one spoke on behalf of all of them. "We will obviously be fighting these cases vehemently and they look forward to their day in court," said attorney Bruce Wenger.

This sect of Ultra orthodox jews is extremely insular--shying away from all media coverage, but tensions in the community were evident during a recent community gathering to raise defense funds for Weberman, who is accused of molesting a girl, now 17, for 3 years. Many others protested protecting this accused abuser.