Brooklyn In Awe As FBI Hauls Off 1 Prominent Figure After Another Allegedly Connected To N.J. Corruption Probe
5 Spiritual Leaders In N.Y., N.J. Part Of 44 Rounded Up By Authorities
Two of the rabbis charged in Thursday's massive New Jersey corruption bust are in Brooklyn and the FBI raided their synagogues.
The largest Jewish community in the world is stunned. A pair of its leaders were arrested and the FBI said they did not act alone.The raids of several commercial buildings started early and took a Williamsburg neighborhood by surprise.
"I was standing here working and all of a sudden the FBI came and we didn't know what was going on," one witness told CBS 2 HD.
Curious crowds grew quickly around the Bnos Jerusalem office on Lee Street as word spread that several rabbis had been arrested in a massive money laundering scheme, including Rabbi Mordechai Fisch, who served at Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn, and Rabbi Saul Kassin, a prominent leader of the Syrian Jewish Community.
Kassin is the chief rabbi at Congregation Shaare Zion in Flatbush, the flagship synagogue of the community.
CBS 2 HD tried to speak to officials there Thursday.
"I'm sorry we're not commenting," we were told. "I'm sorry no comment."
FBI agents swept across northern New Jersey early Thursday morning, making arrests in one of the largest and most high-profile corruption probes in state history, a 10-year investigation known as "Bid Rig."
The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, the Jersey City deputy mayor and council president, two state assemblymen, numerous other public officials and political figures and five rabbis from New York and New Jersey were among 44 suspects nabbed in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high-volume, international money laundering conspiracy, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced.
Investigators said Rabbi Kassin was involved in bankruptcy fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods, and other illegal money transactions all under the mask of a charitable tax-exempt organization connected to his synagogue. Member Joe Fallas said he can't believe the allegations against Rabbi Kassin.
"I'm hoping it's not true. I'm hoping he clears his name. I think somebody is setting him up. He don't seem like the type of person to do anything bad," Fallas said.
A man who said he was relative of Kassin stopped by told CBS 2 HD he believes the FBI got the wrong man.
"I can't believe it I don't believe it. And whatever they have to say has gotta be hogwash," Ezra Kassin said.
Ezra Kassin said Rabbi Saul Kassin is family and he cannot believe the spiritual leader was arrested as part of the massive money laundering scheme.
"He's a very honorable fantastic person. If anybody needs anything any questions you go to him. He's top notch and I couldn't say anything better about anyone else," Ezra Kassin said.