By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
Epstein told the woman that he orchestrated a kidnapping about once a year. He explained that it would cost $10,000 to pay for the rabbis to approve the coercion at a beth din, plus $60,000 to cover the "tough guys."
"We take an electric cattle prod," Epstein said. "If it can get a bull that weighs five tons to move, you put it in certain parts of the body and in one minute the guy will know."
On October 9, eight men, including Yaakov Goldstein, piled into two minivans and gathered at a warehouse on a secluded road in Middlesex County, New Jersey. They wore "ski masks, Halloween masks, or bandanas," according to the indictment. They brought with them the traditional tools for a get ceremony: feather quills, ink bottles, a writing board. They also had rope, plastic bags, a screwdriver, and surgical blades.
As they waited for the woman's brother to bring the husband, a team of federal agents burst in and arrested the would-be kidnappers. Shortly afterward officers arrested Epstein and Wolmark.
The woman and her brother were undercover FBI agents. They had worn wires that recorded the conversations.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney's Office had been investigating Epstein since October 2010, when a group of men allegedly attacked a man named Yisrael Bryskman in Lakewood, according to spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael. Prosecutors charged Rabbi David Wax and his wife, Judy, with the kidnapping. Bryskman said the assault took place at Wax's home. (The Waxes have yet to enter a plea. Mitchell Ansell, their attorney, says there are "still discussions ongoing" between the sides.)
At Epstein's bail hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Gribko, the lead prosecutor for the case, cited several victims he knew of: Rubin, Bryskman, a New Jersey man in 2006, a Brooklyn man in 2011, a Pennsylvania man in 2012. At the time of the sting, he "had reason to believe" there were at least 20 other victims. The number rose quickly once Epstein's arrest made headlines, he added. "My phone has not stopped ringing with calls from potential victims," Gribko told the court.
Epstein's wife and four daughters put up five properties worth a combined $4 million as bond. A judge ordered that the 68-year-old rabbi wear an electronic monitor and leave his house only for meetings with his attorney, medical appointments, and religious worship. (Neither Susan Necheles, Epstein's attorney, nor Robert Rimberg, who is representing Wolmark, responded to the Voice's interview requests for this story.)
While Epstein surely has allies in his community, publicly he has become a pariah. The Rabbinical Alliance of America was one of Epstein's preferred beth dins. Its director, Rabbi Hershel Kurzrock, was friendly with Epstein. Kurzrock's wife tells the Voice that he's "been getting a lot of calls" from the press and that he won't comment on Epstein. Several beth din rabbis who didn't know Epstein declined to discuss him on the record, saying they don't want their names associated with his in any fashion.
Other community members and victims requested anonymity out of fear.
"Zachary" remains terrified of Epstein. In 1991, his wife sought a divorce and hired Epstein as her to'ein. He's looked over his shoulder ever since.
"I've lived like a fugitive for 20 years," he says.
Zachary refused to grant a get until they finished negotiating custody for their two children and alimony. He claims she wanted full custody and the get was the only chip with which he might sway her. Even then, the mediation couldn't move forward because they disagreed on a beth din and Zachary would not accept an ad hoc hearing. In January 1995, two weeks after Epstein entered the picture, Zachary's wife accused him of child abuse and a family court judge issued an order of protection barring him from his home. (The order expired after one year.)
Zachary began hearing stories about Epstein's ways of pulling a get out of a man. "Watch yourself," friends told him. Certain "the goon squad" was after him, he moved to New Jersey to stay under the radar. He reveals his address to no one, not even the city he lives in. His phone number is unlisted. He wiped the Internet clean of nearly every piece of information that may point to his location. He believes that men working for Epstein may still be looking for him.
"I was elusive," he says. "I was lucky."
He hasn't signed the get.