Rabbi Aharon Goldberg, 55, and Shimon Liebowitz, 25, were arrested in Central Valley, NY, Tuesday, when they were meeting to plot the kidnapping and murder of a husband who is refusing to give his wife a get, federal officials said Wednesday. They were charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder for hire.
Prosecutors said the Liebowitz belongs to the Satmar community in Kiryas Joel, NY, and Goldberg, originally from Bnei Brak, Israel, is “a prominent rabbi in Kiryas Joel.”
The FBI said Goldberg and Liebowitz contacted an individual in early July to kidnap the husband and force him to give a get to his wife, on penalty of death. The man they recruited then contacted the Bureau about the plot and began recording his conversations with the two suspects. The code name for the plan was “Wedding.” They discussed kidnapping, torturing and forcing the get from the husband, either in the US or when he was on a trip to Ukraine. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Goldberg and Liebowitz paid the FBI informant about $55,000 for what he called a “chilling plot.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. stated in a press release: “As if the plan to kidnap the victim and force him to divorce his wife in this alleged conspiracy wasn’t bad enough, the plotters allegedly decided halfway through the arrangement to go a step further and add murder to the list of their planned crimes. Our country protects freedom of religious beliefs and practices, but no one is allowed to plot a kidnapping and murder regardless of their motivation.”