Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto had a friend of his, a New York City detective, arrest a man who revealed business wrongdoings of Pinto’s top personal aide, according to a civil suit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Friday.
The allegations in the court affidavit state that Pinto had Detective Eric Patino arrest Israeli businessman Tomer Shohat, who was sent by investors to probe suspected wrongdoing in the management of a Manhattan building – Metro Apartments – partially owned by a company that Pinto’s aide Benzion Suky controlled.
In March 2012, Shohat began representing a group that had invested $10.5 million in the property and wanted the books examined for wrongdoing. After arriving in New York and examining the books, Shohat found that Suky had taken personal loans and charged them to Metro Apartments and that he would rent apartments at the building without a hotel permit, according to the court document.
According to the affidavit, Shohat presented his findings to Rabbi Pinto, after which “Pinto and Suky directed [the] plaintiff to cease his investigation and warned [the] plaintiff that if he continued his investigation he would come to bodily harm and or be arrested by their friend in the police department – defendant Patino.”
The affidavit also alleges that in mid-February 2013, after Shohat presented the findings of his investigation to the Metro Apartment board, Pinto’s brother, Menahem Pinto, contacted Shohat and “advised him that he and Yosef Yoshiyahu Pinto could no longer protect the plaintiff and he should leave the country and return to Israel, otherwise they and Suky would have him arrested.”
At this point, the affidavit says, Suky and Rabbi Pinto arranged for Detective Patino to arrest the plaintiff on February 21, 2013.
Patino told Shohat he would release him if he went to lunch with him, otherwise he’d take him to jail downtown, where he’d be in danger of injury at the hands of other inmates. He then allegedly told Shohat that if he handed over a computer with information about alleged wrongdoing by Pinto’s aide, he’d let him go.
Patino then filed a grand larceny charge against Shohat and had his passport taken so he couldn’t leave the country, the affidavit says.
The affidavit cited that Suky filed a fraudulent complaint alleging that Shohat had stolen valuable property and assumed a false identity to obtain goods.
The district attorney’s office in April filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Shohat.
Rabbi Pinto and his associates are suspected of giving cash payments, a discount on an apartment in Tel Aviv and help in obtaining visas to the US to immediate family members of former police official Menashe Arbiv – who resigned this month in the midst of the scandal.
The payments allegedly included a NIS 700,000 discount on an apartment in north Tel Aviv and semi-monthly payments of $2,000 to Arbiv’s son, which were made to Arbiv while he was the Israel Police attaché in Washington.
Arbiv denied that he received illicit payments from Pinto or his people.
Pinto is also expected to face indictments for bribery and intimidating witnesses.
Pinto allegedly tried to bribe police Dep.-Ch. Ephraim Bracha, who heads the National Fraud Squad, with $200,000 in July 2012, to gain information about a criminal investigation into the Hazon Yeshaya foundation, which Pinto runs.
Bracha reported Pinto’s actions to his superiors.
On Saturday evening, Arbiv’s attorney said that his client plans to submit a police complaint against Pinto on Sunday, accusing him of fabricating the documents allegedly detailing the bribery. One in particular concerns a document showing dates that Arbiv supposedly stayed for free at the Metro Apartments, when Arbiv and his attorney say he was in Washington.
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