Mendel Epstein’s son and another man were arrested Thursday on charges of kidnapping and assaulting a man in 2009. David Aryeh Epstein, 39, and Chaim Baruch Rubin, 32, allegedly beat the victim until he agreed to grant his wife a “get,” the document required for divorce under Orthodox Jewish faith.
This is the third divorce extortion case to lead to criminal charges in the last three years. Mendel Epstein and nine other men were arrested in October after an FBI sting. Four have pleaded guilty. David Wax, arrested in 2011, pleaded guilty to a 2010 assault.
According to the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Rubin contacted the victim with a job opportunity in Lakewood, New Jersey. One night, Rubin asked him to stay late for a meeting. When the victim walked to his car, a group of men jumped him and put him into the back of a van.
They bound him with zip ties and duct tape. They beat him and applied a stun gun to his hands and genitals, according to the complaint. Eventually he agreed to recite the oath for a get.
After that, the assailants dropped him out of the van. He went to the emergency room. He had suffered bruised ribs and a bruised spine.
In January, the victim identified David Epstein in a photograph as one of the attackers.
The circumstances of this case are similar to previous divorce extortion allegations.
The investigation into Wax’s case led federal agents to Mendel Epstein. In August 2013, the FBI 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 Martin Wolmark, a rabbi from upstate New York, were arrested soon after.
As we detailed in a December feature story, Bad Rabbi, members of the Orthodox community have for decades accused Epstein of exploiting the religion’s marriage customs for his own financial gain. Some tales of kidnapping and torture at the hands of Epstein go back as far as the early 1980s.