New York — People who live in New Jersey can be forgiven if they initially yawned Thursday morning at the news of yet another federal sting that swept up a wide range of public officials, including the young mayor of Hoboken who’s been on the job all of three weeks.
They might even have shrugged at the report that five rabbis also were snared in the dragnet for washing $3 million through an international money-laundering ring.
But body parts?
This is Round 3 in a series of New Jersey corruption investigations that has spanned a decade and taken down more than 100 people, half of them government officials involved in money-for-access schemes.
But the trajectory of this latest seemed to impress even experienced investigators who, in the course of tracking mayors taking cash in diners and rabbis depositing untraceable money into the accounts of their charities, stumbled upon Levy Izhak Rosenbaum — allegedly selling human kidneys.
Rosenbaum, a Brooklyn businessman, is accused of buying kidneys for $10,000 apiece from donors in Israel and then selling them to U.S. transplant recipients for $160,000, according to a federal complaint.
“I am what you call a matchmaker,” Rosenbaum told undercover agents, noting he’d been marketing kidneys illegally for 10 years, the complaint said.
Altogether 44 people were arrested Thursday. Among them were 29 New Jersey public officials, including three mayors, two state assemblymen, several city council members, local commissioners, regulatory inspectors and at least one unsuccessful candidate who wanted to be mayor of Jersey City.
“The list of people we arrested sounds like it should be the roster from a meeting of community leaders,” said Weysan Dun, head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s office in Newark, N.J. “But sadly they weren’t meeting in a boardroom this morning. They were in the FBI booking room.”
Federal officials would not identify the government witness at the center of the latest sting. But according to the Newark Star-Ledger, he is a northern New Jersey real-estate developer and son of a prominent rabbi in the Syrian community in Deal, N.J., who turned government witness after he was accused of defrauding a bank of $50 million.