New York Hasidic man faces prison in alleged murder-for-hire plot

Shimen Liebowitz has been held without bail since his arrest a year ago.

By CHRIS MCKENNA/THE TIMES HERALD-RECORD
September 26, 2017 16:20
2 minute read.
Satmar Hasidim

Satmar Hasidim in the Yetev Lev D’Satmar synagogue in the town of Kiryas Joel, New York. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Middletown, NY (TNS) - A Kiryas Joel, New York, man faces at least 21 months in prison for his role in an alleged plot to commission the kidnapping and murder of another Hasidic man who had refused to grant his wife a divorce.

Shimen Liebowitz, a 26-year-old, married father of one, pleaded guilty in July to a single count of conspiracy to commit extortion and is due to be sentenced by Judge Sidney Stein in US District Court in Manhattan on Nov. 30.

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Prosecutors and defense attorneys have agreed to ask the judge to stay within the sentencing guidelines of 33 to 41 months. That comes to a minimum of 21 months once the time he already has served is subtracted.

Liebowitz has been held without bail since his arrest a year ago.

He asked the court this month to release him on bail from the Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center before his sentencing so he could celebrate the Jewish holidays at home, but his request was denied.

Liebowitz and two other men were charged in September 2016 with plotting and paying a private investigator $55,000 to coerce a Satmar Hasidic man into giving his estranged wife a religious divorce consent, known in Jewish tradition as a get.

Based on conversations the investigator recorded and gave to the FBI, authorities say the plot escalated from kidnapping and torturing the man in Pennsylvania or overseas to killing him.

Only his get or death would enable the wife to remarry.

The other two alleged conspirators in what authorities dubbed a murder-for-hire plot were Aharon Goldberg, an Israeli rabbi who is now 56; and Binyamin Gottlieb, a 34-year-old Monsey man.

Gottlieb was boarding a flight to Ukraine at John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens when authorities nabbed him last year, five days after they arrested Liebowitz and Goldberg.

In court papers opposing Liebowitz's bail request this month, assistant US attorneys for the Southern District of New York acknowledged that Liebowitz opposed the idea of killing the intended victim, but noted that he had consented to the use of force if necessary.

In the criminal complaint last year, Liebowitz was said to have met with the FBI informant at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets to plan the abduction just days before his arrest.

Gottlieb, who is accused of recruiting the investigator who promptly exposed the plot, pleaded guilty this month to concealing his knowledge of a felony. No sentencing date has been set.

The charges against Goldberg are still pending.

©2017 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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