Saturday, December 26, 2009

A rabbi has been given two years in prison

The head of an Orthodox Jewish sect has been sentenced to two years in prison for a tax evasion and money-laundering scheme that continued over a decade, spanned two continents, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenue, authorities said. Naftali Tzi Weisz, 61, the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based grand rabbi of the Spinka sect, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in August 2009 for his part in a scheme in which people made tax-exempt donations to charitable organizations and were later reimbursed for up to 95% of their contributions. The ruse allowed contributors to claim bogus tax deductions, even though most of their money was funneled back to them via international transfers, overseas accounts and an elaborate underground banking network that wound through Los Angeles' downtown jewelry district, according to authorities. In addition to Weisz, other religious leaders and businessmen have been convicted of taking part in the scheme and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four months to two years. The plot was revealed through an informant, wiretaps and hidden cameras, prosecutors said.

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