Solomon Dwek is a witness for the FBI in a massive money laundering sting operation. Correction: earlier today I reported that Mr. Dwek had been arrested, when in fact he is a key witness for the FBI. See Updates – the latest
July 24, 2009 10-22-09- below.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Soloman Dwek (36) is a philanthropist and the head of a religious school. Beginning with charges of bank fraud in 2006 Dwek filed for bankruptcy for vast real estate empire. It appears that those problems put him in a position to be used as an FBI informant, helping to bring about the arrest of many today.
To ensnare most of the defendants, the Federal Bureau of Investigation used Mr. Dwek to attempt to bribe numerous public officials in New Jersey, including Hoboken and Jersey City, according to a person familiar with the matter. The probe roped in several other real-estate developers who also wanted to bribe officials. The criminal complaints unsealed Thursday referenced an unnamed “cooperating witness” who represented himself as a real-estate developer seeking to pay bribes. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Dwek is the witness.
“The politicians willingly put themselves up for sale,” Mr. Marra said in an afternoon news conference. “They existed in an ethics-free zone.”
Background on other rabbis arrested:
…Mr. Dwek was also the key to the money-laundering probe, according to the person familiar with the matter. Under the FBI’s direction, Mr. Dwek represented himself as someone who engaged in illegal businesses and schemes including bank fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods and concealing assets and monies in connection with bankruptcy proceedings.
The alleged money-laundering operations run by the rabbis laundered about $3 million for Mr. Dwek since June 2007, according to the court documents and a person familiar with the matter. The rabbis used charitable, nonprofit entities connected to their synagogues to “wash” money they understood came from criminal activity, prosecutors alleged.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn was charged separately with conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant, at a cost of $160,000 to the transplant recipient. According to the FBI’s complaint, Mr. Rosenbaum said he had been brokering the sale of kidneys for 10 years. Mr. Rosenbaum couldn’t be reached for comment. A relative of Mr. Rosenbaum who answered the phone at an address belonging to him declined to comment.
“The rings were international in scope, connected to Deal, N.J., Brooklyn, N.Y., Israel and Switzerland,” said Mr. Marra, the U.S. attorney, at the news conference. “They trafficked in the cleaning of dirty money all across the world.”
Read the entire article at WSJ.
Dwek’s parents, Rabbi Isaac Dwek and Raizel Dwek founded the Deal Yeshiva school which teaches “children in the Sephardic Jewish tradition.” FBI raids were conducted today on Deal Yeshiva and Ohel Yaacob snyagogue on Ocean Avenue in Deal.
Solomon Dwek is the key to the FBI investigation on money laundering and illegal money transmitting. Dwek was facing bank fraud charges and began helping the FBI penetrate a vast network of crime. It was well-know that Dwek was in trouble. He told “targets” he was trying to conceal his assets. The “targets” took checks from Dwek made out to charities that they supported or managed. The “targets” “deducted a fee and returned the cash” to Dwek.
Much of the cash they provided him came from Israel, and some of that in turn came from a Swiss banker, prosecutors said. All told, some $3 million was laundered for Mr. Dwek since June 2007, prosecutors said.
Moshe Altman of Monsey, N.Y. connected Dwek to Maher Khalil, a building inspector in New Jersey. The web branched out mayoral candidates, city council candidates, and confidants.
Dwek, working under an assumed name at this point, posed as a real estate developer. He said he wanted to build high rises and he often offered a straight bribe of $5,000.00 cash to be “taken care of.”
He also came up with a lingo: corrupt payments were “invitations,” approvals for development projects were “opportunities.” The communities where his pitch appears to have worked included Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Ridgefield and parts of Ocean County.
Those appearing to be arrested with the help of Solomon Dwek are Hoboken mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus mayor Dennis Elwell, New Jersey state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt and New Jersey Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith.
In Hoboken, prosecutors charge in their complaint, Mr. Cammarano, then a councilman running for mayor, eagerly agreed in a meeting at the Malibu Diner this year to help Mr. Dwek with his projects in exchange for cash. Prosecutors said that when Mr. Dwek asked for assurances that his requests would be expedited by the Hoboken City Council, Mr. Cammarano replied, “I promise you,” adding, “You’re going to be, you’re going to be treated like a friend.”
Rabbis connected to Dwek are Levy-Izhak (Issac) Rosenbaum, Saul Kassin, Mordchai Fish, Lavel Schwartz, Eliahu Ben Haim and Edmund Nahum. All but Rosenbaum are connected to the money laundering charges.
Rabbi Rosenbaum’s crime is especially odious:
…accused of enticing vulnerable people to give up a kidney for $10,000 and then selling the organ for $160,000. Mr. Dwek pretended to be soliciting a kidney on behalf of someone and Mr. Rosenbaum said that he had been in business of buying organs for years, according to the complaint.
We can count on more to come about Rabbi Rosenbaum.
Dwek, the informant, told the money laundering targets that he was involved in illegal businesses and bank frauds, and needed to conceal cash and assets from creditors in a bankruptcy filing, authorities said.
In Hudson and Bergen counties, Dwek posed as a developer and owner of a tile business who wanted to build high-rises and other projects and to secure contracts from Jersey City schools, authorities said.
He was introduced to a Jersey City building inspector who, in return for $40,000 in bribes, promised to smooth the way for approvals of his projects, authorities said.
That led to referrals to various elected officials and their operatives, who allegedly took bribes, often connected to fund-raising efforts in hotly contested mayoral and City Council races in Jersey City and Hoboken, authorities said.
Some of the bribes were parceled out to straw donors, who then wrote checks in amounts that met legal limits for individual donors, authorities said.
Others pocketed bribes for their own personal use and benefit, pledging to expedite building permits or steer contracts to the informant, authorities said.
Solomon Dwek pleaded guilty today to federal bank fraud and money laundering charges.