FBI agents arrested two members of the Satmar Hasidic sect on Tuesday, on suspicion the pair were planning the kidnap and murder of a third Satmar man over the latter’s refusal to grant his wife a divorce.
According to a statement released by the FBI Wednesday evening, the plot involved an Israeli rabbi and an American associate, who hired a private investigator to assist them in luring out their intended victim, kidnapping him, and then murdering him.
Unbeknownst to the conspirators, however, the private investigator – himself an Orthodox Jew – had alerted the FBI. He feigned interest in aiding the two, and tape-recorded conversations with them regarding the plot.
Rabbi Aharon Goldberg, 55, of Bnei Brak, and Shimen Liebowitz, 25, of Kiryas Joel have been charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder for hire. The two plotters could face up to life in prison if convicted.
The two had planned to lure the victim either to Pennsylvania or the Ukraine, where, with the aid of the private investigator, he would be abducted and, ultimately, murdered. They planned to pay more than $55,000 to the investigator for his assistance in the plot.
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. noted that the conspirators had initially planned to abduct the recalcitrant husband and force him to grant his wife a divorce.
“As if the plan to kidnap the victim and force him to divorce his wife in this alleged conspiracy wasn’t bad enough,” said Sweeney, “the plotters allegedly decided halfway through the arrangement to go a step further and add murder to the list of their planned crimes. Our country protects freedom of religious beliefs and practices, but no one is allowed to plot a kidnapping and murder regardless of their motivation.”