3 held for trying to extort Bnei Brak rabbi

2 main suspects believed to have conspired to extorting $150,000 from rabbi, believing he pocketed half-million dollars from American donor.

Three men were arrested last week by Tel Aviv Police on suspicion of attempting to extort a well-known Bnei Brak rabbi, police sources said on Monday.
Two main suspects, whose names are barred from publication, are believed to have conspired to extort $150,000 from the rabbi, after mistakenly believing that he had pocketed more than half a million dollars from an American Jewish donor that was intended for charity.
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The third suspect, an American millionaire and a resident of Brooklyn, New York, is believed to have taken part in extortion attempts, a police source told The Jerusalem Post.
“This affair began in August, when a rumor spread in a synagogue that the rabbi received $600,000 from a Jewish American donor based in New York, but didn’t pass it on to its intended recipient,” a police source told The Jerusalem Post.
After hearing the rumor, the source added, the main two suspects went to the rabbi’s office, pretending to represent the US donor, and began making threats and demands for a portion of the money.
The rabbi insisted he had never received the money.
“They told him, we will ruin your daughter’s wedding. We want $150,000,” the police source added. “The threats continued via phone calls.”
In a bizarre twist, the source said, the US donor himself is suspected of being a part of the extortion plot, after he allegedly told the rabbi that the two suspects were linked to underworld elements, and that it would be “in his best interest” to pay the amount they demanded. The rabbi facing the threats then contacted police.
On October 14, at a meeting in the lobby of the Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv, the rabbi facing the extortion threats met with the two suspects and the American donor, and demands for the money were reiterated. Undercover detectives pretending to be waiters documented the meeting.
“The rabbi again said he didn’t receive any money, and the meeting ended without agreement,” the police source said. The “waiters” then immediately arrested the three suspects.
All three are suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime and extortion. The two main suspects are in custody, while the American national has been placed under house arrest for 15 days, the police source said.