Mark Weissman, 54, of Lawrence and Rabbi Igal Haimoff, 67, of Flushing, were charged with attempting to extort $7 million in exchange for not providing law enforcement with purportedly incriminating evidence, according to Eastern District officials.
According to the complaint, Weissman told the victim that a third party would send information to law enforcement if the victim did not send him $6 million. Weissman recruited Haimoff with intention of using his charity (not named) to receive the funds, allegedly as a way of disguising the transaction. The men are accused of sending a fake charitable donation letter stating that the money would be used to complete construction on a yeshiva in Queens, the demand was increased to $7 million after Haimoff indicated that the third party was increasing the price.
The men were actually contacting an undercover FBI agent. “As alleged, Haimoff and Weissman attempted to characterize the millions of dollars they expected to receive from their extortionate threat as a charitable donation,” United States Attorney Richard Donoghue for the Eastern District said in a prepared statement. “This office, along with our law enforcement partners, will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who seek to hide their criminal conduct behind the cloak of a charity.”
“Charity of all kinds, especially related to children, is esteemed to be noble, honest, and true,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. stated. “By allegedly attempting to extort and blackmail this victim in the name of charity, Haimoff and Weissman gravely undermined these values. By the arrests of these individuals, it is clear that regardless of cunning cover-ups, all injustices will ultimately be revealed.”
Weissman and Haimoff face up to 5 years in prison if convicted. U.S. Attorney Nathan Reilly is leading the prosecution.
Eric Creizman of Creizman LLC is representing Weissman, and Susan Necheles of Hafetz & Necheles LLP is representing Haimoff. Necheles chose not to comment on the case, but Creizman said that his client is, “Innocent of the charges, and I think that will be established by the time this case is resolved.”