Brooklyn man pleads guilty in first ever federal conviction for brokering illegal kidney transplants for profit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2011
Defendant Admits Orchestrating Three Completed Transplants
From Israeli Donors for New Jersey Residents
TRENTON, N.J. – An Israeli citizen living in Brooklyn, N.Y., admitted today to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for payments of $120,000 or more before he was caught conspiring to organize another black market sale, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a/k/a “Isaac Rosenbaum,” 60, pleaded guilty today to an Information charging him with three counts of acquiring, receiving and otherwise transferring human organs for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation; and one count of conspiracy to do the same. Rosenbaum was originally charged with the conspiracy by Complaint in July 2009.
The defendant entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson in Trenton federal court. Rosenbaum’s convictions are the first under the federal statute involving the black market sales of kidneys from paid donors.
“Rosenbaum admitted he was not new to the human kidney business when he was caught brokering what he thought was a black market deal,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “A black market in human organs is not only a grave threat to public health, it reserves lifesaving treatment for those who can best afford it at the expense of those who cannot. We will not tolerate such an affront to human dignity.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Rosenbaum admitted that from January 2006 through February 2009, he conspired with others to provide a service, in exchange for large payments, to individuals seeking kidney transplants by obtaining kidneys from paid donors. Specifically, Rosenbaum admitted to arranging three transplants on behalf of New Jersey residents that took place in December 2006, September 2008 and February 2009. Rosenbaum admitted that he was paid approximately $120,000, $150,000 and $140,000, respectively on behalf of these three recipients.
Rosenbaum’s kidney business was exposed through the use of cooperating criminal defendant Solomon Dwek and an undercover FBI agent (the “UC”) who was posing as an employee of Dwek and who represented to Rosenbaum that her uncle was in need of a kidney transplant. Dwek and the UC first met with Rosenbaum in mid-February 2008 at which time Rosenbaum informed them that “[i]t’s illegal to buy and sell organs,” but assured them that “I’m doing this a long time.” Rosenbaum explained to Dwek and the UC that he would help the recipient and the donor concoct a fictitious story to make it appear that the transplant was the product of a genuine donation and that he would be in charge of babysitting the donor upon the donor’s arrival from overseas. Rosenbaum also informed Dwek and the CW that he would charge $150,000 to arrange the transplant, explaining that the high price was due in part to payments that would be made to individuals in Israel for their assistance in locating the donor.
Rosenbaum met with Dwek and the UC again in August 2008, at which time Rosenbaum required that a blood sample be taken from the UC’s uncle to ensure a donor with the appropriate blood type was located. Rosenbaum related that he had an associate he paid in cash who would take the blood sample, and reiterated that he would help coordinate the cover story between the recipient and donor, assuring them that “so far I’ve never had a failure.” During the meeting, Rosenbaum informed Dwek and the UC that the price had risen to $160,000. He also accepted four blank checks totaling $10,000 from Dwek as a down payment and informed Dwek that the checks would be made payable to a charitable organization, the name of which Rosenbaum would fill in on the checks before depositing them.
At a July 2009 meeting, Rosenbaum informed the UC that he had been arranging kidney transplants like the one to be done on behalf of her uncle for a period of 10 years, the most recent only two weeks earlier.
During his guilty plea, Rosenbaum admitted he had informed the FBI agent and the three kidney recipients that he could locate individuals who were willing to donate their kidneys in exchange for money. Rosenbaum admitted he typically located individuals in Israel willing to be paid for giving up their kidneys and that he would be responsible for arranging the paid donors’ travel to the United States as well as their accommodations in the United States before and after the transplant surgery. Rosenbaum admitted that he arranged for blood samples to be drawn from the potential recipients so that appropriate donors could be located. He also acknowledged that he assisted each paid donor and recipient with fabricating cover stories in order to fool hospital employees into believing that the transplant in question was the product of a genuine donation.
Each of the charges to which Rosenbaum pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Rosenbaum also agreed to forfeit approximately $420,000 by the date of sentencing – consisting of the $410,000 he accepted for brokering the transplants and the $10,000 down payment he accepted from Dwek.
Judge Thompson continued Rosenbaum’s release on bail pending sentencing, and he remains under house arrest with electronic monitoring. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Feb. 2, 2012.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Ronald Kleinberg and Richard Finkel Esqs., New York