The leader of an Orthodox Jewish sect was arrested Wednesday after authorities unsealed a sweeping 37-count indictment alleging that he operated a decade-long tax fraud and money laundering scheme stretching from Israel through New York to downtown Los Angeles’ jewelry district, authorities said.
Grand Rabbi Naftali Tzi Weisz, head of the Spinka religious group, and his executive assistant, Gabbai Moseh E. Zigelman, are accused of soliciting “tens of millions of dollars” in contributions to Spinka charities while secretly promising to refund up to 95% of contributors’ donations, federal prosecutors said. The contributors then illegally claimed tax deductions on their bogus donations.
Six associates, four of whom were arrested Wednesday, were charged in connection with the scheme. Those arrested were identified as: Yaacov Zeivald, 43, of Valley Village; Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55, of Los Angeles; Alan Jay Friedman, 43, of Los Angeles; and Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv. Authorities are looking for Los Angeles diamond merchant Moshe Arie Lazar, 60, and Tel Aviv attorney Jacob Ivan Kantor, 71, both believed to be in Israel.
Five Brooklyn-based Spinka charities are also defendants in the alleged money laundering scheme: Yeshiva Imrei Yosef, Yeshivath Spinka, Central Rabbinical Seminary, Machne Sva Rotzohn and Mesivta Imrei Yosef Spinka. The charities are accused of making out false receipts for phony donations as well as receiving the money laundering fees, according to the indictment.