In October 2010, David Wax was arrested for beating Yisrael Bryskman until Bryskman agreed to divorce his wife. Shorty afterward, federal authorities in New Jersey began investigating Mendel Epstein for his role in the crime. Three years later, in October 2013, prosecutors charged Epstein for orchestrating multiple kidnappings and assaults targeting Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a “get,” the document required for a divorce under the religion’s law. Nine accomplices faced charges as well.
But it all started with the Wax case which, on Tuesday, came to a close when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping. At his hearing in federal court in New Jersey, Wax identified Epstein as the head of the operation, explaining that he and Epstein had a relationship that went back three decades, ever since Epstein coerced a get for Wax’s sister in the 1980s.
See also our December feature story: Bad Rabbi: Tales of Extortion and Torture Depict a Divorce Broker’s Brutal Grip on the Orthodox Community
Wax said that he and Epstein worked together on the Bryskman job with Bryskman’s wife’s family paying Wax $100,000 and Epstein $50,000.
Wax had known Bryskam from around the community and on October 16 he invited Bryskman over to his Lakewood, New Jersey house. There, a group of men jumped Bryskman, blindfolded him, handcuffed him, and carried him upstairs. The men beat Bryskman until he agreed to recite a get oath.
Wax named his accomplices: they were among the men arrested in October.
The investigation into the Wax case led the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office to Epstein, spokesperson Rebekah Carmichael told the Voice in November. In August 2013, federal agents began a sting operation targeting Epstein and his accomplices. An undercover agent posed as a wife seeking a coerced get. Epstein offered his services for $70,000.
“We take an electric cattle prod,” Epstein said in their recorded conversation. “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.”
Federal agents arrested eight accomplices as they prepared for the kidnapping in a warehouse. Epstein and a Martin Wolmark, a rabbi from upstate New York, were arrested soon after.
At least four of the accomplices have pleaded guilty so far.
Wax faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for August 19.
Send story tips to the author, Albert Samaha