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Prosecutor: More men say they were tortured by rabbis' group

Oct. 17, 2013 at 4:53 PM   |   Comments

TRENTON, N.J., Oct. 17 (UPI) -- A federal prosecutor in New Jersey says two rabbis who allegedly tortured Orthodox Jewish men into agreeing to divorce are no different from other criminals.

At a bail hearing Wednesday in Trenton, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gribko compared the rabbis, Mendel Epstein, 68, and Matthew Wolmark, 55, and their alleged confederates with the Mafia and street gangs like the Crips and the Bloods, the New York Post reported.

Gribko also said his office has been getting phone calls from more men who say they were physically abused since the rabbis were arrested last week.

"It's larger than we thought," Gribko said. "The threats are not just in the past. This is an ongoing business."

Magistrate Douglas Arpert set bails of $500,000 to $2 million for the six men who appeared in court Wednesday. He said those who post bail will be under house arrest and banned from having anything to do with divorce cases.

Under Orthodox Jewish law, divorces are only valid if husbands agree to the split and grant their wives a document known as a "get." Women can be left in limbo, unable to contract a valid religious marriage, and the law is sometimes used to give men leverage in negotiations over child support, custody and alimony.

The rabbis allegedly charged women as much as $50,000 to convince their husbands to cooperate. The investigation included an FBI agent who posed as an Orthodox woman seeking a divorce.

Epstein allegedly boasted of the effectiveness of cattle prods: "You put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute, the guy will know."

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