Two muscle men working for a pair of New York rabbis’ “divorce gang” are heading to jail on some serious charges after participating in a violent and not-so-kosher extortion spree over the past several years.
According to NBC News, David Hellman, 33, and Simcha Bulmash, 32, were both sentenced to three years in federal prison on Tuesday after they were found to have been the primary assailants in a string of extortion cases involving husbands who were unwilling to divorce their Jewish wives.
In Judaism, a “get” must be signed by both spouses to make the divorce official, and obtaining the get was the job of Hellman and Bulmash.
The Orthodox men would use some unorthodox means to convince recalcitrant husbands to sign divorce papers. Abductions, cattle prods, handcuffs, and plastic bags over the heads of reluctant spouses were common go-to options for the henchmen.
In the U.S., researchers estimate that 40%–50% of all first marriages will end in divorce, with 60% of second marriages concluding the same way. These numbers are much lower among Jewish couples because of the get, which prevents one spouse from ending the marriage without signed approval from the other.
According to Lohud, the men were working on orders from two prominent ultra-Orthodox New York rabbis, Martin “Mordechai” Wolmark and Mendel Epstein. Both men are facing separate and more severe charges, with Wolmark potentially receiving up to five years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 14.
The assailants were busted in a sting operation in 2013 when they traveled from New York to New Jersey to meet an uncover agent who posed as the brother of a Jewish wife looking for a divorce.
The men committed a federal offense by crossing state lines to engage in criminal activities. Both pled guilty to traveling in interstate commerce to commit extortion in front of U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson.