Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Brooklyn Hasidic Jews accused of trying to smuggle marijuana from El Paso 

Three Hasidic men who allegedly were trying to set up a marijuana smuggling ring from El Paso to Brooklyn are scheduled to appear in court next week.

Boruch "Barry" Rapoport, 47, Moshe "Mony" Horenshtein, 27, and Menachem Jacobson, 30, all Hasidic Jews, were arraigned in a New York federal courtroom in September after agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations arrested them on various drug charges. Hasidic Judaism is a branch of Orthodox Judaism. According to the New York Post, which first reported the arrests, the three men wore traditional yarmulkes and tzitzits, or tassels, at their arraignments.

On Sept. 10, a federal grand jury in El Paso indicted Rapoport, Horenshtein and Jacobson on one count each of conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes and conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and three counts of trafficking in contraband cigarettes.

Their trial dates are pending before U.S. District Judge Philip Martinez. The men are scheduled to attend a status hearing on Dec. 11.

According to a criminal complaint affidavit filed by Homeland Security Investigations agents, Rapoport met with an undercover agent in April and told him "his guys" were looking to buy at least 50 pounds of marijuana a week. During the meeting, which was recorded, Rapoport allegedly told the agent to use code words when discussing marijuana during future deals. The complaint states the agent and Rapoport agreed to use the terms "vegetables" or "alfalfa" when referring to the marijuana, and "foot" or "yard" when discussing the weight of the drug.

The complaint also states that Rapoport and the agent spent several months negotiating a price for transporting the marijuana. In May, Rapoport allegedly told the agent he didn't want to be in the same room as the marijuana and the money, because if he got caught "they wouldn't be going to Hawaii for many years," agents wrote in the complaint.

In September, the undercover agent and Rapoport finalized a deal, and on Sept. 9 the undercover agent met with Rapoport at a Brooklyn Hotel, while two other undercover agents met with Horenshtein and Jacobson at a Brooklyn warehouse, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Jacobson asked one of the agents for a sample of the marijuana to take to his client. The agent told Jacobson the marijuana was "not the Mexican stuff, it's 'hydro' from California," and Jacobson allegedly told the agent "that's good because you can't sell that Mexican stuff around here."

When one of the agents asked about payment, the complaint states, Horenshtein took out $3,000 in cash from his pocket and handed it to the agent.

Meanwhile, the complaint states, Rapoport showed the undercover agent he met with $95,000 in cash and told him it was for the 50 pounds of marijuana, then handed the agent $3,800 for the marijuana samples given to Horenshtein and Jacobson at the warehouse.

After the cash was handed over to the agents, the complaint states, agents arrested the three men at their locations. Rapoport and Horenstein asked for attorneys, while Jacobson agreed to speak to agents.

According to the complaint, Jacobson told agents Horenshtein had asked him if he could store marijuana at the warehouse. Jacobson allegedly agreed.

All three men are also accused of trafficking contraband cigarettes in California, El Paso and New York since August 2013. According to their indictment, Rapoport allegedly paid an undercover agent $2,080 in cash and $35,000 in money orders for purchasing cigarettes in January.

The men were released on bonds of $500,000 each while they await trial, which has yet to be scheduled. According to the New York Post, Jacobson's bond was posted by Hunter College Chabad Rabbi Boruch Jacobson, while Horenstein's bond was posted by a members of the Rubashkin family, who are described as influential Brooklyn business owners.

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