Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A former Brooklyn gang member who apparently became a Hasidic rabbi is facing dozens of charges after he allegedly posed as a law enforcement officer in a case that prosecutors call "one of the strangest" they've seen.
"It's bizarre, but it's still serious to us," said Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.
Roberto Eddy Santos was a member of the Latin Kings in the 1990s and served 10 years in Sing Sing for violent robberies. When he was released, he changed his name to Avorham Gross and assumed the identity of a rabbi. Pictures posted on social media show him interacting with members of the Hasidic Jewish community.
Authorities are looking into whether "this was really a genuine conversion or whether this was just a scheme to defraud," according to Thompson.
Gross is being more seriously investigated for pretending to be a law enforcement officer. Prosecutors says he used a fake badge and a other fake documents to pretend he was part of a non-existent state "child abuse prevention task force." He also tried to fool security when he attended hearings for a recent family court case.
"We were able to determine that he bypassed normal security measures to get into the courthouse as if he was a member of law enforcement," Thompson said.
Investigators said Gross fooled police into helping arrest a woman he suspected of trying to break into a car -- and then allegedly followed up with the Manhattan district attorney's office, posing as a law enforcement officer.
The badge looked real and he knew police jargon, investigators said.
In another instance, prosecutors said, Gross used lights and sirens in his personal car to pull over a New Jersey Transit bus carrying passengers. He accused the bus driver of cutting of him off.
There's currently no evidence Gross has any contact with children as part of the fake child abuse prevention task force, but the investigation is continuing.
Gross' lawyer Zakir Tamir said his client has pleaded not guilty. Zakir would not comment on charges that Gross acted as a cop or whether he had converted to Judaism.
He said his client would be in court Wednesday.
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