Political heavyweight Rabbi Milton Balkany was sentenced today to four years in prison for trying to shake down a hedge fund. As the Post reports, federal judge Denise Cole took the unusual step of ordering the 64-year-old rabbi jailed immediately, saying she was “seriously concerned” that he would try to run away if free on bail.
His scheme was to blackmail Steve Cohen’s SAC Capital Advisors into coughing up millions to two Brooklyn yeshivas, including one where Balkany was dean.
Balkany was convicted in November after a seven-day jury trial. As the Voice‘s Tom Robbins wrote at the time:
The verdict caps a seven-day trial which revealed a drama worthy of John Guare or David Mamet: Secretly recorded tapes played by prosecutors showed the influential rabbi invoking his high-level connections from the White House to the Senate in a bid to persuade a billionaire hedge funder to part with $4 million to two of Balkany’s favorite charities.
Balkany is related by marriage to another powerful Chabad Lubavitch family, the Rubashkins, whose kosher meat empire fell apart in a nationally publicized immigration scandal and other legal troubles.
In the Balkany case, the original federal indictment from February 2010 still makes for interesting reading. It includes snatches of conversation during which Balkany tells the hedge-fund reps that he’ll use his influence to keep a federal inmate from spilling the beans about a supposed insider-trading probe. (The feds said there was no such probe, as it turned out.)