We applaud the decision on the part of the Department of Justice, which has announced that it intends to pursue the prosecution of the final 6 counts against Philip Esformes. The jurors failed to reach a conviction in April of 2019. The remaining counts were for “paying and receiving kickbacks, money laundering, bribery and obstruction of justice. A conviction on these counts would be a modicum of justice for the elderly and their families. While Esformes claims to be “spending most of his days studying with rabbis, working, reconnecting with his children, and taking care of his father…” In our opinion, there is no manner of decency Esformes can show that would compensate the hundreds of victims (and their families) of his crimes.
Donald Trump’s commutation of Esformes’ sentence was a deplorable act, in and of itself. The elderly and their families deserved better from their President at the time and they deserve justice now.
May 4—Concerned that a convicted healthcare mogul freed by then-President Donald Trump might flee the country, Justice Department prosecutors urged a federal judge Tuesday to confine Philip Esformes to his South Florida home with an electronic ankle monitor and impose a $10.5 million bond to ensure his appearance for a new trial.
But their request was effectively rebuffed, at least for now.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola instead granted a request by Esformes’ defense team to postpone the government’s bond proposal until mid-August, when it will be taken up again.
Justice Department prosecutors recently said they will pursue unresolved charges from Esformes’ healthcare fraud trial in 2019, when a federal jury deadlocked on the main conspiracy charge and five other offenses but found him guilty of 20 corruption-related counts. Scola sentenced Esformes to 20 years in prison and ordered him to pay $5.3 million in restitution to the taxpayer-funded Medicare program and a $38 million forfeiture fine.
“The trust that he broke was of epic proportions,” Allan Medina, the lead prosecutor in the $1 billion healthcare fraud case against Esformes, said at Tuesday’s hearing.
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
Considerations for Deciding on a Sentence – A Deficiency of Education? Really…
Zalmund Zirkind is charged with the laundering of funds derived from drug trafficking. There are numerous victims, including those who have fallen victim to drug abuse, overdoses and death for whom Zirkind, whether directly or indirectly, provided a pathway to use. His laundry operation was clever, considered and committed. And excusing this behavior on the basis of a failed education is a travesty.
If Hasidic education is inadequate it should be acknowledged as a failure and fixed. If the Hasidics are fighting any effort to provide them with an adequate education, they should not then be excused from the accompanying failures with respect to abiding by civil laws. The Zirkind family ascribes to their belief system, indoctrination of educational neglect, the accompanying insularity and community centrist religious practice. They should not be rewarded for their choices when running afoul of the law.
The community with which Zirkind identifies is entirely opposed to secular education with rare exception. They claim that their Torah education is superior to civil education, a claim echoed in the United States, Canada and throughout Europe and Israel. Rabbi Zalmund Zirkind is a rabbi, a person held in high esteem and regard, a person of allegedly moral superiority. He is supposed to be exemplary and pristine, setting an example for his followers.
The religious community has fought in courts the world over to prevent the imposition of civil education. There are claims in lawsuits wherein Torah education is described as “superior” and “secular studies as morally challenged.” If Torah education, absent civil studies, is superior are we to reward its failings? Is Zirkind, then, by virtue of the educational environment in which he was raised superior or is he morally challenged? He can’t have it both ways with the above letter also being evidence of reasons for leniency, a shield protecting him for the charges for which he has pleaded guilty.
While the person who wrote that letter claims to have fought the religious educational system for years, his fight is irrelevant. If Zirkind himself believed his education inadequate, why allow his own family members to follow suit? Perhaps so they will later have an excuse to claim that their deficient understanding of the world should yield the benefits of diminished sentencing when they commit crimes? That is an absurdity.
Rabbi Zirkind was to have been a pillar of his community, an example. His affinity for decency as expressed in the above letter does not mitigate the crimes he committed or the responsibility he had to provide a pristine example for his congregants. Were we to be lenient what message would that send to his followers?
The following are pages from the Government’s position on the Zirkind sentencing which can be found on the court docket. It is not to be deemed as complete.
Money Laundering Allegations, No Intent to Go To Trial, Nothing from Chabad, and Accountability?
We find it harrowing that in the face of allegations of one of their own, a Rabbi who is well-respected, well versed and generally accomplished as a leader, Chabad has said nothing.
There have been no words of condemnation.
There has been no measure of apologies (for the victims).
There has been dead silence.
And, with Rabbi Zirkind having stated through counsel that he has no intention of taking this to trial, are we to assume that perhaps he is going to offer a plea? And, will that plea include implicating his family members, at least one of which was actively involved in allegations of drug trafficking several years ago?
Is it not about time that a committed Jew share a commitment to civil law and practice? Is it not so much to ask that the leaders of respectable Jewish communities actually act respectably?
If one is to wear the title “Rabbi” with the level of grace of that of Rabbi Zirkind, should he not be an exemplar for a community which is so lacking in respect for civil laws?
We hope, Rabbi Zalman Zirkind, that it is your intention to do the right and honorable thing even if it means reporting on those within your community, whether in New York or in Canada. Complacence is complicity.
All In the Chabad Family. From Shoah Gelt to a Bail Request for Synagogue and Mikvah Attendance – Why is No One Reporting on This?
[Edited – 8.13.20]
Chabad Lubavitch is not without its scandals. It is, in our opinion, largely lacking in accountability, particularly where one of their own, a pillar of their community is involved.
To give some historic perspective, Colel Chabad is the oldest and most prestigious Chabad charity in the world. It is well respected and called upon as a Chabad Partner for Shluchim (outreach). In the 1990’s the Zirkind family established a branch of Colel Chabad in Montreal, Canada, a task completed by patriarch of the family, Simcha Zirkind. Going back as early as 1998, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission approved a television station for and on behalf of Rabbi Zalman Zirkind.
In 2015, the Chabad Lubavitch Headquarters Magazine honored Rabbi Simcha Zirkind as a “pioneer of Chabad Activities in Quebec who died at the age of 76.
Rabbi [Simcha] Zirkind was among the pioneering activists of the Lubavitch Youth Organization in Montreal. He later raised funds for Colel Chabad, Machne Israel and Kehot Publication Society.
In 2004 he launched the Advice for Life project which made the Rebbe’s teachings available to many in the Jewish community of Quebec. Over the years he distributed over 200,000 copies of the various editions of the publication.
It seems, however, the family has used this charity as a slush fund and vehicle for money laundering. Colel Chabad is based in Brooklyn, NY, with branches around the world. It is to some extent the financial epicenter of Chabad.
Rabbi Zalman Zirkind is the Director of the Canadian branch of Colel Chabad. Colel Chabad of Canada has long been connected to money laundering schemes, going back to 2011 and earlier, as seen in the National Post article linked here.
In 2019, long after the article above from 2011, the LostMessiah Blog reported on Mark Zirkind, drug trafficking and the claims of “Shoah Gelt” which were raised in a 2019 Canadian appeal of a 2014 sentence for money laundering. It was not until this blog reported on that story in 2019, that other papers picked it up.
On July 21, 2020 Chabad member and Crown Heights resident Benzion Zirkind, formerly of Montreal, Canada, was arrested and indicted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, from 2018 to 2020.
A few days earlier, on July 16, 2020 Benzion’s uncle, Zalman Zirkind, of Montreal, Canada, was arrested in Champlain, New York for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, on charges related to those of his nephew.
The Ukranian Oligarchs, the Ties to the US Government, Power and Money
LM began investigating the story of the Ukranian Oligarchs deeply embedded in US political affairs in 2019 as part of the investigation into the arrest of other Ukranian nationals tied to the government. Actually, the investigation started earlier when LM began looking into the Dan Gertler stories in 2016.
More recently, our inquiries have included Rudolph Giuliani’s pursuit of business in the Ukraine. The Magnitsky Act sanctions against Gertler which were toppled by executive order (more on that in a later story) and now a recent investigation into Ukranian oligarchs heavily leveraged in a number of US states who allegedly laundered and stole billions of dollars.
The story about these men and their somewhat intricate ties to high level US Government officials included a number of significant news articles about Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s Interior Minister and Marie Yovanovitch (who, if you will recall was ousted from her position as the US ambassador to the Ukraine). We posit that Yovanovitch knew what was going on, wanted to put an end to the wholesale purchase of parts of the US to powers that be in the Ukraine and got tossed aside for that reason. Her testimony during the impeachment hearings likely missed far too much about what she knew than it brought to light.
The information we uncovered along the way, we believe, should have been part of the US impeachment inquiry, which itself was unsuccessful; but only because of the political climate. The mistakes of that inquiry were far more about what was ignored during hearings than anything else, namely that likely all the President’s men were playing both sides of the Ukranian double-edged sword to establish relationships and with Ukranian power-brokers thereby yielding themselves significant political power and financial benefits. No politician worth his weight in corrupt political salt would have been immune to the money and power these connections could help wield.
Chabad UK is a separate charity to Chabad Lubavitch UK (registered charity 227638); the class inquiry is not connected to it or any other Chabad organisations.
The Charity Commission is considering its options around the recovery of charity funds as it reports on its inquiry into Chabad UK and 7 linked charities. Two trustees have been removed and disqualified from their positions, and the manager of the charities automatically disqualified, after he was convicted of laundering money through the charities from the sale of counterfeit medication, and supplying false information to the Commission.
The regulator worked closely with the Metropolitan Police throughout its investigation into the charities that were registered to advance the Orthodox Jewish faith and relieve poverty. Information supplied by the inquiry allowed the manager to be convicted of an offence under section 60 of the Charities Act for providing false or misleading information to the Commission.
The inquiry found that:
Over £9 million passed through the charities’ bank accounts between January 2012 and May 2014, however most of the charities’ annual returns to the Commission declared nil income or expenditure.
Over £60,000 was paid out of the charities’ bank accounts to a trustee between 2007 and 2015.
The trustees failed to meet their statutory reporting requirements.
These failings were a clear breach of the trustees’ duties and amounted to serious mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration of the charities.
A number of the charities’ bank accounts are currently restrained by a court order under the Proceeds of Crime Act. The Commission is considering its options in relation to the recovery of funds and will ensure that, where possible, any charitable donations recovered are applied in accordance with the charitable objects to which they were initially given.
Amy Spiller, Head of Investigations Team at the Charity Commission, said:
This case involved an unscrupulous pattern of dishonesty that has no place in charity. Charity represents the best of human characteristics – that’s why the behaviour of those involved in charities matter.
These charities were clearly misused for personal gain, and I am pleased that we have been able to work closely with the police to ensure that those responsible have been brought to justice.