Headlines and photos in the mainstream media shocked readers on July 24, 2009: "Rabbis, Politicians Snared in FBI Sting." Scenes of agents rounding up manacled suspects, including five black-clad rabbis, three New Jersey mayors and two state assemblymen, ran for a day-then the story mostly dropped out of sight, except in local papers or the Jewish press.
Those newspapers, including the New York Daily News, took to task the FBI's informant, the son of a prominent New Jersey rabbi, a "Syrian Jew" named Solomon Dwek, who was arrested in 2006 for trying to cash $50 million in bad checks from the PNC Bank.
Dwek, a major real estate developer and gambling boat owner, helped set up stings for the FBI and IRS initially to help expose international money-laundering in Brooklyn and New Jersey, authorities said. The five rabbis, including one octogenarian, were charged with laundering "tens of millions of dirty money" they received from Dwek through nonprofit charities, yeshivas and synagogues they ran. Prosecutors say Dwek told the rabbis the money came from illegal sources, including fraudulent bank loans and sales of knockoff designer handbags. The religious leaders would allegedly deposit Dwek's cashiers checks as charitable contributions. In return the rabbis gave Dwek "clean cash," keeping anywhere from 10 to 15 percent for themselves or their charities.
Dwek also "led the feds to a Brooklyn rabbi, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, who allegedly boasted that he had been helping to peddle human organs on the black market for a decade," according to a New York Post article published July 28. "On tapes, Rosenbaum allegedly refers to himself as a 'matchmaker' who could find an Israeli donor for a 'schmear,' or money-specifically willing to trade a kidney for $160,000." (This raises more questions, since for religious reasons many Jews are averse to donating their own body parts.)
Solomon Dwek's undercover work also spotlighted what has become business as usual in American politics. "Dwek and his wife made more than $190,000 in campaign contributions from 1998 through 2006 to a broad array of political leaders, including Democratic members of Congress, Republican state senators, and both parties' state committees," according to The Record, a Bergen County, NJ publication.
The presumably corrupt politicians accepting outright bribes during this particular FBI sting include the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, NJ, as well as the Jersey City council president. Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano was caught on tape bragging, "I could be indicted and still get 85 to 95 percent of the vote," according to officials.
This may be only the beginning of illegal activities exposed by the sting. Dwek turned in 44 people, said Sam Antar, another Jewish former informant who provided evidence against his cousin, Eddie Antar, and other criminals in the late 1980s. "When you have 44 people worried about going to jail, some of them are going to turn in other people. That's what the government does. It flips witnesses," he told The Jewish Week in New York on July 28.
"You have here an alleged crime that was committed by a group of people who shared several common characteristics," explained Antar. "Religion, race, ethnicity and social background. It's no different than other organized conspirators, like the mob, the Eastern European gangsters, the South American cartels. When you build bonds between people, their crimes can go undetected for very long periods of time."
While insisting that the vast majority of Syrian Jews are law-abiding, Antar said that the community's tight-knit nature and deep level of trust provide a natural framework for keeping secrets.
Inexplicably, the wrath of the Jewish community is focused not on the accused lawbreakers, but on the informant who agreed to wear the wire for the FBI. An Aug. 9, 2009 Haaretz article quotes two sources from the Dwek's tight-knit Syrian Jewish community in Deal, NJ who said Rabbi Israel Dwek delivered a blistering speech about his son, in which he denounced the actions of a Jew being an informant against fellow Jews. …