Reprinted with Permission of the Author:
In 2014 Canadian Rabbi Mark Zirkind was caught speeding on a highway leading to Montreal. Mark had just flown into the Toronto airport and was heading back to Montreal in a rental car. Mark had picked up over a million dollars in cash from an international narco drug dealer at a shopping mall near the Toronto airport. Lesson to learn from Mark: If you have over a million dollars in narco cash you should obey the traffic laws.
Mark got busted by the Canadian Mounties and went to trial. At trial Mark claimed that he was duped by rabbis and narco dealers. Mark thought he was transporting “Shoah Gelt.” Mark told the Canadian jury that he thought he was delivering cash for safekeeping for Jews in Europe who were afraid of a second Holocaust. Mark told the jury that he was doing a mitzvah. The jury didn’t believe Mark. Mark got sentenced to four years in a Canadian prison in Saskatchewan where he learned how to smoke salmon and tan pelts.
Rabbi Mark enlisted his American brother Rabbi Zalman Zirkind to help him launder money for international drug dealers. Rabbi Zalman in turn enlisted his nephew Rabbi Benzion Zirkind to join him in the family business. The Rabbis laundered tens of millions in cash through New York, Hong Kong, Israel, Columbia, Canada and Mexico. Zalman and Benzion both got busted by the Feds. Zalman pleaded guilty. Zalman is getting sentenced tomorrow in Federal Court before Judge Denise Cote in New York City. Zalman was facing 14 years of incarceration based on the Federal sentencing guidelines. The Justice Department agreed to lower their recommendation to five years based on Zalman’s health and family issues. Zalman has many children and has some personal medical issues, as well as medical issues related to his children.
Zalman’s nephew Benzion pleaded not guilty. Benzion will be facing trial with his co-conspirators Emiliano Bomba, Brian Para Machado, Jose Baez, and Andy Garibaldi Lopez. I don’t believe that you can count Benzion’s co-conspirators for a minyan.
Zalman’s attorney has made the following arguments for leniency in court filings: “In contrast to many men in Zirkinds’ Orthodox Jewish community, including his own father, who relinquished all child rearing responsibilities, ie., never change diapers, grocery shop, or take their children to community outings, Zirkind proudly and fully shared home and child rearing responsibilities with his wife…. he would also fill the family car with gas, take out the garbage, pay the bills, deal with the bank, take the children to school and doctors’ appointments, and for the Sabbath, would make the cholent a special meal prepared on Friday to be enjoyed on Saturday… The reactions from people in Zalman’s community upon learning of his crime include scorn, ridicule and ostracism. Even some family members no longer want to have anything to do with him… Though now of marriage age, Zalman’s son appears to be ostracized by the matchmakers and mothers in his community. Before Zalman’s arrest, mothers and matchmakers were promoting others to marry his oldest son. Before his arrest, a marriage was on the short horizon. The Zirkind family, now shamed in the community by Zalman’s sins, and plea of guilt, the heretofore imminent marriage appears as a black hole in that young man’s future.”
The Feds will argue at sentencing that Zalman continued to launder millions of dollars of narco dollars after his brother Mark got busted in Canada in 2014. Didn’t Zalman see the writing on the wall? Zalman’s attorneys argued in response: “In the exercise of its informed discretion, the Government continued to allow Mr. Zirkind to deal with others after he was identified as a money transmitter. Had the Government chosen to arrest Mr. Zirkind in 2018 Zalman could have cooperated and might be facing a lower sentence or guideline range.”
Zalman received numerous character letters of support from prominent Rabbis in the United States and Canada. Zalman also received a character letter signed by renowned Canadian Professor of Mathematics, and author of many inspirational books, Rabbi Doctor Abraham Boyarsky. Dr. Boyarsky wrote the following: “I believe Zalman is a victim of an educational system that I battled fiercely for years… in 1990 I founded TAV College with a mission of training young men like Zalman to acquire a profession such as computer training and earn an honest living. For attempting to do the unthinkable, I was called a traitor by the rabbinical leaders in the community and threatened with cheirim, excommunication. My novel, The Chassidic Trauma Unit, portrays life in this educationally impoverished community. It is my good fortune that most people in my community can’t read English, otherwise I would have been lynched a long time ago.”Zirkind Letters