News and Press Releases

Brooklyn rabbi sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison in money laundering conspiracy



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 27, 2012


 

TRENTON, N.J. – A rabbi based in Brooklyn, N.Y., was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison for conspiring to launder $200,000 to $400,000 in funds that he believed were the proceeds of unlawful activities, United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Lavel Schwartz, 61, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to a Superseding Information charging him with money laundering conspiracy. Judge Pisano imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Schwartz admitted that beginning in May 2008, he and his brother, Rabbi Mordchai Fish, met with Solomon Dwek, an individual he now knows was a cooperating witness with the United States. For a fee of approximately 10 percent, Fish and Schwartz agreed to launder and conceal Dwek’s funds through a series of purported charities, also known as “gemachs,” which Fish controlled or to which he had access. Schwartz admitted that prior to laundering Dwek’s funds, Dwek informed him that the funds that he sought to launder were the proceeds of Dwek’s purported illegal businesses, which included the trafficking in counterfeit goods.

Schwartz admitted that he would assist Rabbi Fish and Dwek with counting the cash that had been retrieved from a coconspirator, and admitted to encouraging Dwek to engage in more transactions, believing that the proceeds stemmed from a counterfeit bag business and that Rabbi Fish was retaining a 10 percent fee.

Schwartz admitted that, despite knowing the illicit nature of the funds, he engaged in approximately 10 money laundering transactions with Dwek. As part of these transactions, Fish helped convert between $200,000 and $400,000 in checks into a similar amount of cash, minus the 10 percent fee that Rabbi Fish extracted from the transactions.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Pisano sentenced Lavel Schwartz 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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

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Defense Counsel: Jacob Laufer Esq., New York, and John Azzarello Esq., Chatham, N.J.

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