NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A rabbi and another man have been charged in New York City in a plot to kidnap and murder a man so his wife could be divorced consistent with her religious beliefs.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Shimen Liebowitz and Aharon Goldberg were arrested Tuesday in Central Valley, New York, while they met to plan what he called a “chilling plot.”
When they talked in code, they called it “the wedding,” but Bharara says it was really a plot to kidnap and maybe torture a man until he agreed to grant his wife a religious divorce, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
“As if the plan to kidnap the victim and force him to divorce his wife in this alleged conspiracy wasn’t bad enough, the plotters allegedly decided halfway through the arrangement to go a step further and add murder to the list of their planned crimes,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. said in a news release. “Our country protects freedom of religious beliefs and practices, but no one is allowed to plot a kidnapping and murder regardless of their motivation.”
Bharara said they planned to pay $55,000 to someone they thought would commit the murder. Instead, that person contacted the FBI.
It wasn’t immediately clear who would represent the men during a Manhattan federal court appearance.
Prosecutors said the 25-year-old Liebowitz belongs to the Satmar community in Kiryas Joel, New York, while the 55-year-old Goldberg of Bnei Brak, Israel, is a prominent rabbi in Kiryas Joel.
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