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Feds: Orthodox rabbis laundered drug money through Brooklyn yeshiva

June 17, 1997 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two Orthodox Jewish rabbis were charged with funneling $1.75 million in Colombian drug profits through the bank accounts of a yeshiva and synagogue in Brooklyn, federal prosecutors said.

``These individuals covered themselves with the cloak of legitimacy, namely religious institutions, to launder the illicit profits of major drug traffickers,″ Donald Wanick, chief of the criminal investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service’s Manhattan branch, said Monday.

Twelve men were charged in the money-laundering scheme.

Five were said to be New York representatives of Colombian drug operations, three were charged with being intermediaries, and four _ including the rabbis _ had close ties to the Jewish community in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn, The New York Times reported today.

U.S. Attorney Zachary Carter said Rabbi Mahir Reiss, 47, and Rabbi Bernard Grunfeld, 64, both of Brooklyn, and Abraham Reiss, 48, of Manhattan, laundered $750,000, obtained from five suspected drug traffickers, through the accounts of Chaim Shel Shulem, a religious association headed by Rabbi Grunfeld.

Authorities also charged the men with depositing, and then withdrawing, $1 million through the accounts of the Bobover Yeshiva and Congregation Eitz Chaim.

They allegedly made more than 95 cash transactions in amounts under $10,000, in order to avoid a federal reporting requirement.