‘Brooklyn Bundler,’ Chabad Rabbi, Charged With $4-Million Extortion
Brooklyn Chabad Rabbi Milton Balkany has been accused of extorting $3.25-million from a New York hedge fund in order to fend off a non-existent federal probe of insider trading allegations. Unfortunately, the notion that Orthodox rabbis engage in acts of corruption is not news. What is news is this fellow’s previous background. He is the consummate political inside operative who represents the powerful interests of Brooklyn’s Orthodox community. His fundraising (hence his nickname, “Brooklyn Bundler”) prowess on behalf of pro-Israel, Aipac-favored largely Republican candidates is legendary. The names of politicians he’s fundraised for is long: D’Amato, Inoyue, Giuliani, Pataki, Dole, Bush, Lott, Fitzgerald, Sununu, Humphrey (Gordon), Talent, and Schumer to list but a few. One of my sources tells me that much of his political fundraising was done in close collaboration with none other than Joe Lieberman.
According to the Village Voice, this is how the lurid conversation went between Balkany and the reputed hedge fund president (who in reality was a federal agent):
“I think it’s a very minor price for the package over here. I think if this ever got into what [the government] wants to bring, it would cost [the Hedge Fund Manager] ten million [dollars] in lawyers…It’s a very inexpensive way out. You know what I mean? …I’m not holding up anybody here.”He also offered his own experiential notion of what happens when the feds launch one of their probes:
“The government is like this. They throw a bucket of mud, that even if the guy gets out, when he gets done going through the whole publicity and the whole everything else, the guy’s destroyed.”
And: “If the FBI should be running after the [Hedge Fund Manager], they could destroy the man. You know what I mean? I don’t care how many billions he has, these guys come and they — they’re merciless.”
His own motives, however, were pure: “I’m not a hold-up man. I’m not here to threaten some — God forbid, I, I’m on the other side of the fence.”
In cases like this, shaking a single apple from the tree often brings down other loose fruit, so one wonders whether other stories will emerge of Balkany’s gonofdik behavior. Any politician who’s ever done this slime a favor should be shivering in their boots. I’ll link to a few of his previous bouts of grand larceny, this one involving Bob Dole, computers for Russian Jews, and AID. In 2003, the good rabbi skimmed $700,000 in housing money meant for the handicapped for personal profit. The feds dropped the case, requiring only $400,000 restitution. This coup from the Giuliani days represents one of his more legal “arrangements” on behalf of the Brooklyn Orthodox community. FailedMessiah also claims Balkany was barred from participation in a federal prison chaplain program because he sold his services to inmates and their families. This guy is a regular mafioso. He extorts money from the prisoner AND from the prisoner’s ex-employer (in this case the hedge fund). That’s simply magnificent as a feat of double larceny!
He married into the prominent Rubashkin Chabad family, owners of Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat company in the U.S., which was recently embroiled in a massive scandal.
At least with other Orthodox rabbi-thieves they can say they were using the money on behalf of their synagogues or schools. Balkany was a real goniff though because much of his purloined cash, even funds extorted on behalf of his Orthodox girl’s school, ended up in his and other family members’ personal bank accounts. Someone who is Orthodox will have to enlighten me on what someone like Balkany could spend such enormous sums. He doesn’t have the same set of possible vices that other con men might have. He can’t do drugs, can’t drive fancy cars, can’t spend it on the ladies. So where could he possibly blow this dough? Las Vegas? West Bank settlements?
On a related note, recently Brooklyn African-American Congressmember Yvette Clarke joined the Gaza 54 to call for easing the Gaza siege. After a meeting with some very somber looking Chabad rabbis in her office, she abjectly announced that she’d seen the light and would be engaging in no such anti-Israel shenanigans in future. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Rabbi B’s fingerprints were all over that one.
On that note, let’s examine some IRS 990s and see where the good rabbi’s largesse may be going other than into his own, and his family’s pockets.
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Great reporting. This guy was a huge force buying legislators back in the 80’s and 90’s. But will the Times dare to really explore this one? We’ll see.