Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brooklyn rabbi sentenced to four years for extorting $4 million from hedge fund 

A Brooklyn rabbi convicted of extorting $4 million from a hedge fund was sentenced Friday to four years in prison.

Milton Balkany, 64, who headed a religious day school for girls in Borough Park, faced up to nine years in prison, but Manhattan Federal Court Judge Denise Cote said she took into account the rabbi's good deeds.

A lower sentence "would be appropriate based on a lifetime of good works and generosity for those in need and people who are the forgotten of society, the most unfortunate among us," Cote said, citing 87 letters written on Balkany's behalf.

And yet, despite the rabbi's plea for a no-jail sentence, Cote said some prison must be imposed to teach him a lesson.

"You were subject to criminal charges because you engaged in criminal behavior," she said. "You picked up the phone and tried to extort $4 million from a hedge fund ... the lack of contrition, remorse and sense of responsibility here in my mind is very profound."

Balkany was a "spiritual adviser" to a federal inmate who he said told him about insider trading at billionaire Steve Cohen's SAC Capital, prosecutors said.

The rabbi then demanded money from the fund or he'd tell the inmate to tell the feds about the trades. He even went as far as to contact the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan to get prosecutors to talk to the inmate.

SAC Capital advisors is a controversial Connecticut hedge fund who has had several ex-workers either charged or investigated in a massive insider trading probe by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Neither Cohen nor the firm itself has been charged, and jurors at Balkany's trial did not hear about the issue.

Balkany, a politically connected rabbi who skirted a federal investigation into bribery, misuse of HUD funds and other charges a decade ago, did not address the November conviction but denied the old bribery charges.

"I never gave a toothpick to a public official in my life," the rabbi said.

He also cited a letter of support from former U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad and said that current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, a former member of Vinegrad's firm, would "be my first witness" to prove he never bribed anyone.

"I'm just hoping and praying that your honor will take the totality of (this) situation," Balkany said.

His lawyer asked that the judge postpone his imprisonment until after the Sabbath, which begins Friday night. But Cote denied the request.

Before being taken away by federal marshals, the white-bearded rabbi waved at his more than two dozen family members and supporters, called out "Good Shabbos" and blew his wife a kiss.


That's what happens when you tchepa the wrong people.


I feel bad for him, but I wonder- how would anyone ever dream they'd get away with this? Have other people gotten away with similar stuff that we dont know about?


he didn't need the money I think it was just the thrill of the hunt


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