Two New York rabbis plotted to kidnap and torture Jewish men to force them to divorce their wives, according to the FBI.
Rabbi Mendel Epstein, 68, of Brooklyn and Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 55, of Monsey, charged Jewish women thousands of dollars to obtain religious divorces, known as “gets,” from reluctant husbands, the FBI said.
Under Orthodox Jewish law, only a man can initiate a get.
“They beat them up, tied them up, shocked them with Tasers and stun guns until they got what they want,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gribko said Thursday in a federal court hearing in Trenton, N.J., according to The New York Times.
The two rabbis, along with eight other men, were arrested following an undercover operation in which a female agent posed as a Jewish woman seeking the rabbis’ services. A male agent posed as the woman’s brother.
According to the complaint, Epstein said his associates could persuade husbands to grant the divorces by torturing them with electric cattle prods.
The cost was $10,000 to pay for the rabbis on the rabbinical court to approve the kidnapping and an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to pay the “tough guys” to carry out the deed, the FBI said.
“I guarantee you that if you’re in the van, you’d give a get to your wife,”Epstein said to the male undercover agent. “You probably love your wife, but you’d give a get when they finish with you.”
Epstein said his team did jobs like this approximately every 18 months. Prosecutors said they believe the group carried out about 20 kidnappings over the years.