A rabbi and another Orthodox Jewish man have been arrested in New York for an alleged plot to kidnap and murder a man whose wife wanted to divorce him, according to federal officials.
Israeli-based Aharon Goldberg, 55, and Shimen Liebowitz, 25, were arrested in Central Valley, New York, while meeting to discuss the plot on Tuesday, according to a statement from the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
The plan involved recruiting an individual identified as “CS” to commit the crimes against the victim. However, CS contacted the FBI with the plot in July, and soon began recording the men’s conversations.
“The defendants are charged with a chilling plot to kidnap and murder the intended victim. Over a period of months, the Complaint alleges, they met repeatedly to plan the kidnapping and to pay more than $55,000 to an individual they believed would carry it out,” Bharara said.
The plot originally involved kidnap and torture, aimed at obtaining a “get” from the victim – a document necessary for an Orthodox Jewish woman to get a religious divorce. The plan was to force the get from the man while he was in the US or on a planned trip to Ukraine, according to prosecutors cited by Reuters.
However, the plot soon took an even darker turn, with the two men deciding they also wanted to have the victim murdered. Orthodox Judaism also allows for a woman to be released from her marriage if her husband has died.
“As if the plan to kidnap the victim and force him to divorce his wife in this alleged conspiracy wasn’t bad enough, the plotters allegedly decided halfway through the arrangement to go a step further and add murder to the list of their planned crimes….” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said.
The men have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, and conspiracy to commit murder for hire.