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Four rabbis and one of their sons were indicted Thursday in a scheme to force men to grant their wives Jewish divorces by kidnapping and assaulting them — sometimes with stun guns.
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey said two undercover agents taped Rabbi Mendel Epstein talking about the brutal methods he used to obtain a document known as a get for high-paying clients.
"Basically what we are going to be doing is kidnapping a guy for a couple of hours and beating him and torturing him and then getting him to give the get," Epstein said at an Aug. 14, 2013, meeting with the agents, who pretended to be a divorcing woman and her brother.
Epstein detailed how his henchmen would use karate, handcuffs, a plastic bag over the head or ranch equipment to convince the men to cooperate, according to the indictment.
"We prefer not to leave a mark," he said, according to the transcript.
"We take an electric cattle prod. If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move, you put it in certain parts of his body and in one minute the guy will know," said Epstein, who put a $70,000 price tag on the operation.
The court papers detail how Epstein's son David allegedly abducted a man in 2009 and bundled him into a van where he was beaten and shocked with a stun gun until he agreed to give his wife a get. A year later, David Epstein and other allegedly tied up and beat a second man for the same reason, the indictment charges.
For a divorce to take effect under Jewish law, the husband must provide a get, a dated and witnessed document. If the husband refuses, the wife must sue for one in a rabbinical court.
The indictment — which also names rabbis Martin Wolmark, Jay Goldstein and Binyamin Stimler — is the latest development in an FBI probe that has resulted in the arrest of at least five other people.
A lawyer for Rabbi Epstein — who was charged by complaint in October but not indicted until now — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
— Tracy Connor