Chief rabbi of brooklyn congregation pleads guilty to illegal cash transmissions related to international charity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2011
TRENTON, N.J. – The chief rabbi of Congregation Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty today to operating an illegal money remitting business, admitting he accepted bank checks in exchange for checks in lesser amounts from a charity he operated and controlled, United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Saul Kassin, 89, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Deal, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to an Information charging him with the offense, in conjunction with the bank account of the Magen Israel Society charitable organization, which transmitted money to individuals and organizations located in the United States and Israel.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made during Kassin’s guilty plea proceeding in Trenton federal court:
Kassin admitted that from June 2007 through December 2008, he operated an unlicensed money transmitting business, transferring thousands of dollars in checks to Solomon Dwek, an individual he later learned was a cooperating witness. Kassin admitted that he accepted bank checks made payable to Magen Israel Society and issued checks from the account to other organizations in exchange. He also admitted that he charged a 10 percent commission for this money transmitting service, and knew that the checks he issued from Magen Israel Society account would not be used for charitable purposes.
The defendant was originally charged by criminal Complaint on July 23, 2009, as part of a takedown of 44 individuals for alleged public corruption and international money laundering offenses. The Complaint alleges that Dwek was originally referred to Kassin by Rabbi Edmond Nahum of Deal, who informed Dwek that Kassin would be able to move large amounts of money. Initially, Nahum accepted checks from Dwek made payable to Magen Israel Society, which Nahum passed on to Kassin. Kassin would then issue checks from Magen Israel Society, minus commission, which Nahum would provide to Dwek. After several such transactions, Kassin met directly with Dwek on a number of occasions to exchange checks in larger amounts. On each occasion, Dwek told Kassin the checks were either proceeds of a counterfeit handbag business or a way to hide assets from Dwek’s bankruptcy court proceedings.
The charge to which Kassin pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, Kassin agreed to forfeit $367,500 in funds seized from the bank accounts of Magen Israel Society by the FBI on July 23, 2009. Sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman stated: “Few financial crimes offend our sensibilities like those that hide illegal activities behind the curtain of charity. In his plea today, Rabbi Kassin admitted that he misused his charity to operate an illegal money remitting business, allowing himself and others to criminally profit through the society’s supposed legitimacy.”
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 guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the Complaint against Nahum are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Gerald L. Shargel, Esq., New York