Rabbi accused in forced divorce plot is called ‘hired hand’ who would ‘harass or nail’ husband in phone recording (LISTEN)
The Prodfather was referred to as a “special” rabbi who worked as a “hired hand” to help Jewish women obtain their religious divorces, a recording revealed Thursday.
The remark was made during a conversation between Rabbi Martin Wolmark, 56, and an undercover agent posing as a Jewish woman in desperate need of help to convince her husband to give her a religious divorce called a get.
Wolmark told her the woman the potential beatdown procedure could be “very costly” and that she needed the assistance of Rabbi Mendel Epstein. The woman was charged $60,000, according to prosecutors.
“You need special rabbis who are going to take this thing and see it through to the end,” Wolmark, 56, said in the call played in federal court in New Jersey.
“It’s a process,” he added, noting a Jewish court would first have to authorize the group of rabbis to take action.
The undercover, who was joined by another agent pretending to be her brother, claimed her husband lived in Argentina but frequently traveled to New York.
“You need to get him to New York where someone can harass him or nail him,” Wolmark told her.
In January, Wolmark pleaded guilty to conspiring to travel to New Jersey to force a man to give his wife a get. Five other codefendants in the case have also pleaded guilty.
But Epstein, 69, and three codefendants, who are charged with kidnapping, maintain they were merely following Jewish law and trying to help women.
Jewish law maintains that only a man can end a marriage by giving his wife a get. But some husbands withhold the religious document out of anger or to land big payouts.
A woman who is trapped is called an “agunah” — Hebrew for chained woman — and is unable to marry another Jewish man without first getting the get.
During the trial, prosecutors also played a short phone call between Epstein and the undercover agents.
“We are having a very, very difficult time with this man,” said the brother, who claimed his name was Jonathan Miller. “Frankly, we are looking for some options. We are getting a little bit desperate and we are looking for some help.”
Epstein initially wondered why the woman hadn’t sought a secular divorce, a process that could persuade him to give her the get.
She claimed that wasn’t an option because he was living in Argentina.
You need to get him to New York where someone can harass him or nail him.
Epstein then agreed to meet with the duo at his home in Lakewood, NJ.
“You understand what we are talking about,” he said. “We are going (to do) some strategic planning — using a nice word.”
The group later discussed where Epstein, and his group of assistants, could apprehend the husband and torture him into changing his mind, according to prosecutors.
The men were busted in a Lakewood warehouse with handcuffs and an electric cattle prod in August 2013, authorities said.
Earlier on Thursday, prosecutors called a Brooklyn rabbi as an expert witness. Rabbi Jacob Goldstein testified that Jews must abide by the law of the land.
“We have religious laws,” Goldstein said. “In the case of a just government… like the United States, the laws of the land are the ones we must follow.”