FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 4, 2012
TRENTON, N.J. – Rabbi Eliahu Ben Haim and Akiva Aryeh Weiss were sentenced today for their respective roles in a money laundering scheme in which Weiss operated an illegal money transmitting business, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Ben Haim, 60, of the Elberon section of Long Branch, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to an Information charging him with money laundering conspiracy. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Weiss, a/k/a Arye Weiss, 57, of Brooklyn, N.Y., previously pleaded guilty before Judge Pisano to an Information charging him with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, or “cash house,” out of a location in Brooklyn. He was sentenced to five years probation with the special condition that he reside in a mental health facility. Judge Pisano imposed both sentences today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Ben Haim admitted that beginning in October 2006, he met with a cooperating witness, Solomon Dwek, and for a fee of approximately 10 percent agreed to launder and conceal Dwek’s funds through an already-existing underground money transfer network. Ben Haim admitted that prior to laundering Dwek’s funds Dwek repeatedly told him the funds were the proceeds of Dwek’s illegal businesses and schemes, including bank fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods, and bankruptcy fraud.
In order to conceal and disguise the nature and source of the funds, Ben Haim directed Dwek to make the checks payable to several organizations that Ben Haim operated, including Congregation Ohel Eliahu, Friends of Yechave Daat, and Congregation Yehuda Yaaleh. Once he received the checks from Dwek, Ben Haim deposited them into bank accounts held in the names of the organizations and then wired the proceeds of those checks to a co-conspirator in Israel, identified in the Information as “I.M,” or, at I.M.’s direction, to bank accounts held by other individuals and corporations in various foreign countries, including Israel, Turkey, China, Switzerland and Argentina. I.M. would then make cash available through an underground money transfer network, including at the cash houses operated by Schmuel Cohen, 27, a/k/a Schmulik Cohen; Yeshaye Ehrental, 68, a/k/a Yeshayahu Ehrental and Yishay Ehrental, and Weiss.
Weiss admitted that from June 2007 to July 2009 he operated an unlicensed money transmitting business with individuals residing in Israel. In conducting his business from a location in Brooklyn, he transferred thousands of dollars in cash to Ben Haim and Dwek. Weiss admitted he transferred between $200,000 and $400,000 in cash to Ben Haim and Dwek.
Ehrental and Cohen, both of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty before Judge Pisano to operating an illegal money transmitting businesses. They were sentenced to 18 months in prison each on Sept. 9, 2011, and Aug. 24, 2011, respectively.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Pisano sentenced Ben Haim to three years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, for the investigation leading to today’s sentences.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Nakly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Eliahu Ben Haim: Lawrence S. Lustberg Esq., Newark
Akiva Aryeh Weiss: Susan Necheles Esq., New York