The recent rolling up of a Syrian Jewish criminal syndicate that was involved in buying off local elected and appointed government officials in north Jersey is but one in a long series of law enforcement operations directed, sometimes unsuccessfully due to the immense power of the Israel Lobby in the United States, against Jewish criminal networks in the New Jersey-New York region. These criminal networks also have one important thing in common: close connections to Israeli politicians and businessmen.
The FBI used a confidential witness to identify a number of Syrian Jewish rabbis who were using synagogues and yeshivas as money laundering fronts reportedly for the illegal sale of knock-off designer hand bags and even human organs. The witness, Solomon Dwek, is a major real estate developer and gambling boat owner who was arrested in 2006 for trying to pass a bad check and defraud PNC Bank of $25 million. Dwek is a member of the powerful Syrian Jewish clan in New Jersey and New York, which has been called the SY Empire" and the "Dwek clan."
Dwek's father, Isaac Dwek, is a rabbi of a synagogue and yeshiva school in the Syrian Jewish enclave of Deal, New Jersey, on the Jersey shore. Deal is a nexus for the radical Israeli right that is opposed to any peace agreement with the Palestinians and the ultra-orthodox Israeli Shas Party, a member of the current Israeli coalition government, has held fundraisers in Deal. The Syrian Jewish community is also heavily involved in worldwide Chabad Houses, which WMR has previously linked to drug smuggling and money laundering, particularly in Mumbai, Bangkok, and other Asian cities. In 1992, the Syrian government lifted travel restrictions and limits on the disposition of property for the Syrian Jewish community. Syrian Jews were relatively free to travel, including to the United States.
Among the rabbis arrested was Saul Kassin, the 87-year-old chief rabbi of the 80,000-member Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn and New Jersey. Rabbis from Brooklyn and Deal were also arrested for money laundering operations that used the tax-exempt status of Jewish religious organizations to avoid detection and reporting to the government.
The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus, and Ridgefield were also arrested as part of the bribery probe of the Syrian Jewish syndicate, as well as a Jersey City state assemblyman and an Ocean Township mayor and assemblyman. A member of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine's cabinet was also arrested, along with appointed officials in Bayonne, Hoboken, and Jersey City.
The latest reported criminal activity among the region's Syrian Jewish community is nothing new. One prominent member of the community, which traces its origins back to the Syrian city of Aleppo, was Eddie Antar, the owner of a regional chain of consumer electronics stories called "Crazy Eddie's," fled the United States for Israel after being indicted for fraud. Antar had laundered some $80 million through Panamanian and Israeli banks, much of it ending up at the Bank Leumi in Tel Aviv, Swiss banks, a "folding tent" Liberian company, and a Liechtenstein foundation. Antar used a fake passport and the alias of David Jacob Levi Cohen to enter Israel. Antar also used the alias of Alexander Stewart. Antar was eventually arrested near Tel Aviv and was extradited back to the United States where he eventually received an eight-year prison sentence. The chief federal prosecutor against Antar was Michael Chertoff.
Syrian-Jewish businessman Norman Jemal, the head of another influential Syrian-Jewish family and a consumer electronics competitor of Crazy Eddie, saw his store chain Nobody Beats the Wiz, collapse into bankruptcy in 2003.
Another prominent Syrian Jew was Edmond Safra who founded Banco Safra in Brazil in 1955. The Beirut-based Safra family had long served as important bankers for the Ottoman Empire. Safra eventually became a billionaire banking and investment tycoon. Safra founded the Republic National Bank in New York in 1966. In 1999, Safra was killed in an arson attack on his Monte Carlo home. Safra's U.S.-born nurse, Ted Maher, a former U.S. Army Green Beret, was arrested and charged with starting the fire but his conviction was overturned. Safra's killer or killers still remain at large. Safra's security chief, Shmuile Cohen, had recruited a number of Israeli military special forces personnel to guard Safra, but Shmule and the guards were given the night off by Safra's wife. Before his death, Safra was negotiating the sale of Republic Bank to HSBC. Safra was also cooperating with the FBI in its probe of the use of U.S. banks by the Russian-Israeli mafia to launder billions of dollars. There is speculation that Safra was murdered by the Russian-Israeli mob to keep him from divulging more details of their operations to the FBI.
After the recent bust of prominent Syrian-Jews in New Jersey and New York, the FBI and Justice Department revealed their investigation had lasted for ten years. The Safra murder occurred ten years prior to the recent corruption arrests. WMR has learned that the FBI is actually probing a much bigger criminal syndicate, one that involves more powerful politicians and businessmen involved in real estate and financial services in New York and New Jersey. The arrest of mayors, other small-time politicians, and rabbis may lead to higher-ups if there is cooperation from those already arrested from plea deals with prosecutors.
One prominent member of the Syrian Jewish community is Joseph Cayre, the real estate business partner of Larry Silverstein and Lloyd Goldman in the pre-9/11 lease of the World Trade Center from the New York-New Jersey Port Authority and the subsequent re-development of the "Ground Zero" site. Silverstein, Cayre, Goldman, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have recently been feuding with the Port Authority over the terms of the re-development scheme. Part of the re-development strategy is central to the "Cornerstones Project," a project to establish for mega-entertainment and sports complexes in Manhattan connected to two other such centers on Coney Island and at the Meadowlands Xanadu entertainment and shopping complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, next to Secaucus. The Xanadu project is being underwritten by Goldman Sachs and is a favorite of Governor Corzine, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs.
In the criminal complaint against Rabbi Eliahu "Eli" Ben Haim of the Ohel Yaacob congregation in Deal, a co-conspirator only identified as "I.M.," who is based in Israel and was a principal source of cash for Ben Haim, is cited. It is odd that "I.M." is only identified by initials when two other co-conspirators of Ben Haim are identified by their full names: Schmulik Cohen of Brooklyn and Arye Weiss, also of Brooklyn. "I.M."s modus operandi is described in the criminal complaint:
"Defendant BEN HAIM also mentioned that he owed another individual $495,000. This individual, according to defendant BEN HAIM, had wired money from Hong Kong to Israel, and stated that 'he has money in Hong Kong from his –- the kickbacks from the factories.' Defendant BEN HAIM also further described the activities of Coconspirator I.M. in the following terms: 'the head contact’s in Israel . . . He has different people, he has, . . . he has a hundred cus-, no customer in New York [u/i] [unintelligible] money in Israel [u/i] real estate investments, they, they want to hide their money. They don’t want it to show. So they give the cash here to him and he gives me the cash . . . You see the merry-goround? This guy’s been doing it for 20, 30 years.' Defendant BEN HAIM also indicated that he would pick up cash, as coordinated by Coconspirator I.M., at locations in Brooklyn. The CW [confidential witness] offered to pick up the cash that defendant BEN HAIM anticipated would be available to him the following week."
The complaint provides even greater details of "I.M.'s" money laundering activities:
"Defendant BEN HAIM told the CW about 'customers from two, three years ago that are calling me,' and indicated that “[t]hat’s a signal that the market is tight.' Defendant BEN HAIM also discussed his source for cash, Coconspirator I.M., and stated that he spoke to Coconspirator I.M. '[e]very day - every other day.' Referring to Coconspirator I.M., defendant BEN HAIM then asked the CW '[d]id you know that he had me in the last 4 years send out wires every time to a different place in the world to a different name? It’s unbelievable. I never saw anything like it.' When the CW asked whether defendant BEN HAIM was referring to different locations in only Israel, defendant BEN HAIM replied '[n]o, all over the world. . . All over the world. From Australia to New Zealand to Uganda. I mean [u/i] every country imaginable. Turkey, you can’t believe it. . . . All different names. It’s never the same name. . . . Switzerland, everywhere, France, everywhere, Spain . . . . China, Japan.' Defendant BEN HAIM also explained that the market for cash was tight 'only in the beginning of the year and the end of the year.'"
It appears that the FBI was being careful about naming "I.M." due to his extensive contacts from Israel to countries around the world, an indication that "I.M.," unlike the rabbis and the New Jersey politicos, is a big fry who is laundering large sums of money, possibly from gambling operations, through synagogues and Jewish charities. It is known that Solomon Dwek was involved in a casino boat business and that jailed GOP lobbyist was similarly involved in taking control of Sun Cruz Casino boats in Florida. Abramoff also funded radical Israeli settler movements on the West Bank. WMR has learned from a reliable source that the identity of "I.M,", if revealed, would serve as a body blow to the Likud government of Netanyahu and his major coalition partners, Yisrael Beiteinu of extreme right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the ultra-orthodox Shas Party. The revelation of "I.M.'s" identity, we are told, will also provide encouragement to the Palestinians to stand their ground against Israeli encroachment in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. In fact, the timing of the recent arrests in New Jersey and New York may be directly tied to Israel's move to build a residential complex in east Jerusalem over the objections of President Barack Obama.
On July 26, 2009, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Rabbi David Yosef, the son of Shas spiritual leader and former Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, left the Long Branch, New Jersey home of Ben-Haim for Israel just hours before the FBI raid that saw the arrest of Ben-Haim. In May, Aryeh Deri visited the Syrian-Jewish community in the New York-New Jersey region seeking funds for a new political party. Deri's successor as the head of Shas, Eliyahu "Eli" Yishai, currently serves as Interior Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister of Israel.
Ovadia Yosef recently condemned President Barack Obama for pressuring Israel on the freeze of settlements. Yosef also called for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple on the site of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites. Yosef complained that there "are Arabs there."
THe north Jersey/Brooklyn area has long been a hub for intelligence and criminal activities by Israeli nationals. In many cases, those arrested have gotten off with light or no sentences. WMR has reported extensively on these, including:
- On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, New Jersey police arrested five Israeli employees of Urban Moving Systems of Weehawken, New Jersey, which is nestled between Jersey City and Hoboken, near Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, next to Secaucus. The Israelis who were earlier seen celebrating, high-fiving, jumping up and down, and videotaping the first and second plane attacks on the World Trade Center.
- The five Israelis were later linked to an Israeli-owned office moving company called Urban Moving Systems headquartered in Weehawken, New Jersey at 3 West 18th Street. Another Urban Moving office was located on West 50thStreet in Manhattan. Urban Moving’s owner, Dominik Otto Suter, identified by the CIA and FBI as a Mossad officer, fled to Israel shortly before he was to be re-questioned by the FBI. The five Israelis, after being jailed for five months, were quietly deported to Israel without criminal charges being filed.
- Information Spectrum, Inc. (ISI) of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a subsidiary of the Fairfax, Virginia-based defense contractor, Anteon, took over the operation of the Jersey City police computer system that handled all incoming emergency phone calls on September 11 . . . According to Jersey City Police officials, after the emergency call system was changed from a Wang to a Windows environment, 8000 emergency 911 system calls registered on September 11 were scrubbed from the archives. In fact, archives dating back to 1989, including those dealing with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, were similarly affected.
- In October 2000, an Israeli veteran of the Israel Defense Force overheard a conversation between three men in the Gomel Chesed Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey. The three men speaking in Hebrew were discussing the "planes hitting the twins," a reference to the 9/11 attacks some 11 months later. The FBI Newark office was informed of the conversation. There was no follow-up by the FBI.
- A Syrian Jew named Rimon Alkatri was indicted by a New York City grand jury for phoning a false terrorist threat to the New York City police in May 2006. The indictment charged Alkatri with making a false terrorist threat in the first degree. Alkatri was arrested on July 31, 2006, a little over a week from the hype generated by the "great airplane liquid bombing hoax." Alkatri, who owns the El Castillo de Oro jewelry store on Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn and who arrived in the United States in 1996, was arrested by police while he was leaving his apartment in a Syrian Jewish neighborhood on East 9th Street. In May, Alkatri, using the alias Jose Rodriguez, and claiming to be from Israel, said he overheard five Syrian employees of his store use the phrase "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) and that they were plotting to hide explosives in hollowed-out jewelry and perpetrate a suicide bombing in the New York subway system on the Fourth of July. Police later discovered that the five Syrian "conspirators" identified by Alkatri were not even Muslims, but Christians and Jews. Alkatri, who could have been sentenced to seven years in jail, was given a six month sentence.
- In 2003, Yehuda Abraham, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, global diamond dealer, and native of Afghanistan, was charged with money laundering for an Indian weapons smuggler named Hemant Lakhani who was attempting to purchase Russian portable missile launchers to bring down American passenger planes, including Air Force One, in the United States. Abraham was later convicted in the scheme that also involved a Malaysian bag man associated with the Southeast Asian Al Qaeda off-shoot Jemaah Islamiya. Abraham and Lakhani conducted their meetings near Newark International Airport. Abraham was sentenced to home detention.
- In 2003, Israeli-born Mark Brener, proprietor of Emperor's Club VIP and three money laundering firms -- QAT Consulting Group, QAT International, and Protech Consulting -- moved from South Brunswick, New Jersey to an affluent condo in Cliffside Park, New Jersey with his 19-year old girlfriend Cecil ("Ceci") Suwal. Emperor's Club VIP was the escort service that enmeshed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and, which more recently is said to involve another Governor, reportedly Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. Brener received a 30 month prison sentence.
- The targeting of New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, a former mayor of Woodbridge, New Jersey, by Israeli intelligence operative Golan Cipel in a homosexual "honey trap" resulted in McGreevey's sudden resignation from office in 2004. McGreevey appointed Cipel to a top homeland security job for the state of New Jersey. The Emperor's Club VIP expose about Spitzer came on the same day that it was reported that emails from the McGreevey administration were erased from the state's computer systems. Cipel today works as an independent consultant.
- In December 1995, Israeli Interior Minister Haim Ramon barred from entering Israel seven U.S. six U.S. citizens, all members of the terrorist Jewish Defense League, as well as Rabbi Abraham Hecht of the Syrian Jewish community in New York, for involvement in illegal activities in Israel. Hecht had suggested that assassinated Prime Minister Rabin could have been a "moser," a Jew who handed over Jews or Jewish property to non-Jews, and deserved the death penalty.
WMR has also learned from sources in China of a significant Turkish angle to the illegal Israeli-run human organ smuggling trade. Apparently, Turkish military surgeons have worked with ethnic Uighurs to harvest organs from young Chinese. The center of the human organ trade is in Israel. Recently, police in Shenzen, China raided a Uighur-run restaurant where younger customers had a habit of disappearing. Police then discovered the restaurant had a grisly secret business: that it was an organ harvesting center, operated with medical expertise from Turkish military surgeons who identified usable organs for for wealthy Israelis, as well as Arab potentates. The Turkish military surgeons apparently got their start after the 1999 Izmit-Istanbul earthquake, the first major operation for the organ harvesters.
The Shenzen eatery's refrigerators were primed for cryogenics, the storage of human organs until transport to customers. The human remains -- limbs, spines, and
heads . . . were boiled down and dumped into the sewer or sold to pig
farmers for slop. Bones were crushed and likewise went down the sewer pipes. Police were originally stymied in collecting evidence in their investigation of the criminal enterprise.