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One of Mayor de Blasio’s biggest donors took the witness stand Thursday to boast about his closeness to the mayor and make clear he had expected “lots of access” to Hizzoner.
The embarrassing testimony came from Jona Rechnitz, who’s pleaded guilty to corruption charges and is the star witness in the trial of disgraced jail union boss Norman Seabrook.
“I was giving money `to the Mayor of New York in exchange for favors,” he said to describe one element of the criminal offense to which he pleaded guilty.
Rechnitz described a meeting he and another donor, Jeremy Reichberg, had with de Blasio’s key fund-raiser, Ross Offinger.
“We expect a lot of access and influence,” Rechnitz said the group told Offinger. “We’re going to become significant contributors.
He said Offinger, a longtime de Blasio aide and the chief rainmaker for the mayor’s non-profit, Campaign for One New York, replied, “Okay. How much do you think you guys can get together?”
Rechnitz, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the hopes of winning lighter jail time, raised $41,000 for the mayor before his 2013 election, donated $50,000 to Campaign for One New York, and wrote a $102,300 check as part of the mayor’s 2014 failed effort to flip the state Senate to Democratic control.
Offinger, Rechnitz testified, returned with his hand out after de Blasio was elected mayor.
“He would call when they needed money,” he said. In return, “I would call whenever I had an issue.”
“I would be a ‘yes’ man,” he added. “I always gave money.”
In court he revealed that de Blasio — who has strained to distance himself from Rechnitz — even came to his office before the election.
The then-candidate “told me to call if there’s anything I need. Always be in touch.”
Rechnitz was one of several donors who got tremendous access to the mayor. De Blasio routinely ordered his minions to intervene on donors’ behalf.
Emails show de Blasio responding, “I’m all ears” when Rechnitz suggested a candidate for buildings commissioner, and City Hall intervened when he was cited for running an illegal hotel.
In response late Thursday, de Blasio’s press secretary, Eric Phillips, mocked the credibility of the mayor’s major donor.
“These are nothing but re-heated, re-packaged accusations that have been extensively reviewed and passed on by authorities at multiple levels,” he said. “The administration has never and will never make government decisions based on campaign contributions.”
Rechnitz was cooperating with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s probe of de Blasio that result in no charges but the finding that the mayor had intervened on behalf of big donors.
Rechnitz also admitted he “straw donors” — an illegal scheme to avoid laws limiting how much contributors can give to politicians.
The law prohibits donors from masking their identity by giving to campaigns through other donors. Rechnitz said he did just that by having people in his office write checks for which he would reimburse them.
He described Offinger as a kind of bag man, dropping by his office to pick up checks.
“I told him to hold on and I’d walk out, get a few checks from people and then bring them in,” he said.
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This article serves as an introduction to an organization that uses social media to rewrite history, to justify the ills of many within the community, to prevent legislation from passage like the ACA, to assist in the demoralization of anything non-ultra-Orthodox and to do so all under the guise of a quasi legitimate charitable organization.
Our attention was drawn to OJPAC by a contributor who pointed specifically to OJPAC’s historical rewrite of the events in Lakewood. This is not the first time an article regarding Rockland County and OJPAC’s ultra-Orthodox voice has lead to reporting on Yossi Gestetner, spokesperson for the organization and a public face of his fellow politicians and political whores. We are sure it will not be the last.
In the first story in today’s “Latest” section of the OJPAC website there is an article entitled, “To the Advertisers of Asbury Park Press and Gannett Investors.” Presumably that article is intended to tell the advertisers and investors that the news is being improperly reported. In actuality, it is a rewrite of history, a justification of sorts.
OJPAC’s fame to public relations in the referenced first article on its site is to de- criminalize activities in Lakewood by drawing comparisons to other areas of New Jersey, namely Newark. Sadly, the residents of Newark to whom OJPAC makes a comparison cannot boast the income of those arrested in Lakewood. Rather, Newark has a history of poverty and crime so such a comparison is not only inaccurate but insulting.
Unlike OJPAC’s whitewashed version of the truth, the issue in Lakewood is not the number of children from married couples on assistance as alleged by the PR website; but rather the numbers of couples manipulating entitlement programs who do not meet the parameters of those programs. The same is not true of Newark.
It is worth noting that even the Vaad of Lakewood acknowledged that there is a problem. OJPAC would have done a service to the community and those viewing that community from outside were a similar acknowledgement to have been made. Apparently, however, the fraudulent activities in Lakewood are acceptable when compared to activities elsewhere, even when such comparisons are non-representative.
We suggest that consistent with the Mission as stated by OJPAC, “to counter the alleged defamation and generalization of the Orthodox Jewish Community” OJPAC should focus on accountability and acknowledgement. To ignore or minimize the the crime that does occur within a fairly large segment of the ultra-Orthodox community is to reduce credibility.
For many, it is difficult not to draw generalizations from a community that has coined the term “Moser” to refer to someone who reports against his own community member. For it is better to remain silent than to report the truth.
We maintain that contrary to their mission, OJPAC is not “organizing civil yet effective community action for fair reporting” but is rather using PR tactics to sway reporting in favor of the ultra-Orthodox community without acknowledging the problems within that community.
We argue that the Federal Authorities should be looking carefully into communities within Rockland County, Kiryat Joel, Crown Heights, Boro Park and other areas across the Eastern 87 Corridor for the same or similar abuses as those committed by members of the Lakewood ultra-Orthodox community. The behavior is indefensible and the comparison to Newark by OJPAC is reprehensible.
Unfortunately, a few bad apples can destroy an entire tree.
We suggest that the authorities should be looking into the activities of any subject on the OJPAC’s website. If a supposed “correction” or alleged “truth” is reported there, it is likely because OJPAC is attempting to minimize or justify activity whether criminal or otherwise.
Finally, we do agree with OJPAC insofar as there are broad generalizations and globally the situation of discrimination and hatred is disturbing. However, stereotypes are based in perception. Perhaps if OJPAC would focus on cleaning up the actions of members of that community, who are sorry examples of Judaism, the worldview might also change.
There are exemplary members of the ultra-Orthodox community. It is just hard to find them when groups like OJPAC color everything using the same white paintbrush.
In the meantime, we offer thanks to the person who provided the voice for this post.
Three persons were arrested by Israel Police on Thursday, 8 Iyar as the primary suspects in a money laundering operation, including one chareidi suspect. Police report the operation involved millions of shekels and the suspects are residents of both Jerusalem and Netanya and they are in their thirties.
It appears that they obtained funds from abroad fraudulently and they laundered the money here in Israel. The operation has been going on for a number of years. During the predawn hours of Thursday however, the clandestine investigation went public as police moved in to make the arrests. Armed with search warrants, police carried out searches of their homes at the time of the arrests.
In a letter Friday, Federal prosecutors urged a judge to stick to her guns and order former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to start serving his 12-year prison sentence as scheduled on August 31.
The letter came hours after Silver’s lawyers asked U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni to treat their client just as Dean Skelos was treated in an entirely separate case and allow Silver to remain free pending appeal.
Skelos is the former state Senate majority leader also convicted on corruption charges.
Silver’s lawyers are hoping that Caproni will echo Judge Kimba Wood, who ruled that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision raised “a substantial question” about whether Skelos’ corruption conviction should be overturned.
The top court decision, which came shortly after the Skelos and Silver verdicts, clarified what constitutes an “official act” of corruption and defense lawyers in both cases contend that the ruling invalidates legal instructions given to their Manhattan juries.
In their letter to Caproni about Silver, the prosecutors said “contrary to the defendant’s assertion … the jury instructions given by the court in this case were in full accord with the requirements” of the recent Supreme Court decision and if there was any error, “it was harmless in view of the overwhelming and undisputed proof presented at (Silver’s) trial.”
POLITICS AND ITS STRANGE BEDFELLOWS… IS THAT POLITICS? MONEY? “PHILANTHROPY”????
American Friends of Yeshiva D’Mir was the subject of our previous post. 5227 New Utrecht Avenue and Torah Support Fund and the disappearance (movement, laundering, distribution to investors of $1,882,550) being key to the intigue of this organization.
One of our contributors happened to mention something we missed, found on all things… Wikipedia:
Just as a matter of coincidence/curiosity…one of the “charitable” loans made by Huberfeld to American Friends of Yeshiva Mir has “notable” alumni: per Wikipedia:
Mir Yeshiva (Jerusalem) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The yeshiva has a branch in Modi’in Illit primarily for Israelis, which also includes a kollel. Mir Brachfeld is headed by Rabbi Aryeh Finkel, Rabbi Eliezer Yehuda Finkel’s grandson.
Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva, 2011 – Present; (Nosson Tzvi Finkel’s son)
Yitzchok Ezrachi, Rosh Yeshiva; (Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz’s son-in-law)
Aryeh Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva, Mir Brachfeld 2005 – Present; (Chaim Zev Finkel’s son)
Binyomin Carlebach, Associate Rosh Yeshiva; (Binyomin Beinush Finkel’s son-in-law)
Nachman Levovitz, Associate Rosh Yeshiva; (Binyomin Beinush Finkel’s son-in-law)
Yisroel Glustein, Associate Rosh Yeshiva; (Binyomin Beinush Finkel’s son-in-law)
Aharon Chodosh, Mashgiach Ruchani; (Chaim Zev Finkel’s son-in-law)
Eliezer Yehuda Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva, 1917-1965; (Nosson Tzvi Finkel/The Alter of Slabodka’s son and Eliyahu Boruch Kamai’s son-in-law)
Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz, Rosh Yeshiva, 1941-1979;
Chaim Zev Finkel, Mashgiach; (Eliezer Yehuda Finkel’s son)
Binyomin Beinush Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva, 1979 – 1990; (Eliezer Yehuda Finkel’s son)
Nosson Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva, 1990 – 2011; (Binyomin Beinush Finkel’s cousin and son-in-law)
Aryeh Finkel, Mashgiach, ? – 2005; (Chaim Zev Finkel’s son)
Eliyahu Boruch Finkel, Maggid Shiur, ? – 2008; (Eliezer Yehuda Finkel’s grandson)
Rabbi Refoel Shmuelevitz
Nosson Tzvi Finkel
Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz
Yisrael Mendel Kaplan
Yitzchak Berkovits, Rosh Kollel, Linus HaTzedek: Center for Jewish Values
Ari Goldwag, singer-songwriter
The Washington Post
Some of the information from the Panama Papers, a vast trove of more than 11 million leaked documents that have cast a light into the shadowy world of offshore finance, is now available to the public for the first time. The Washington Post is joining a group of global media organizations in publishing a searchable database of more than 300,000 opaque offshore entities.
The documents come from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm with offices around the world. An anonymous source gave the documents to German newspaper Süeddeustche Zeitung, which then recruited the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to help lead a global investigation into the material.
Over the past month, media organizations around the globe have published articles with information drawn from the papers. The findings have uncovered the offshore holdings of 12 world leaders, more than 128 other politicians, and dozens of tax evaders, drug traffickers, money launderers and other criminals. The revelations have sparked protests, triggered arrests and led to high-profile resignations, including the prime minister of Iceland.
The searchable database below includes nearly 214,000 entities from the Panama Papers spanning 40 years, from 1977 through 2015. Where available, the database reveals the names of the real owners — called the “beneficial owners” — of offshore companies, trusts and foundations. This information is usually kept hidden from the public by the anonymity that offshore structures provide.
The database also includes information on the intermediaries, such as banks and law firms, that were typically the point of contact between Mossack Fonseca and the real owners of offshore companies. The data shows registered addresses for companies and the connections between corporate entities, owners and intermediaries, and allows you to filter by country or jurisdiction.
The database also includes information on more than 100,000 additional offshore entities, which were revealed in another leakof offshore documents covered by ICIJ in 2013.
his searchable database actually contains just a fraction of the material in the Panama Papers; it excludes the company emails, financial transactions, scanned passports, and other raw documents that make up the bulk of the leak. Not every owner of a company in the Panama Papers appears in the public database, ICIJ says, since some of that information is contained only in Mossack Fonseca’s emails and internal documents and cannot be systematically extracted.
ICIJ says it is publishing the database in the public interest. The anonymous leaker who first gave the documents to journalists also described the leak as an effort to fight against inequality and injustice in a manifesto issued last week, which argued that shell companies are used to carry out a wide array of serious crimes.