According to the Real Deal web site, Ilan Bracha, founder of the Keller Williams New York mortgage company and a financial contributor to Rabbi Pinto has acquired the listing for 240 Riverside Boulevard. Rabbi Pinto’s Shuva Israel West Synagogue was to have the occupied the 2,786-square-foot space on Manhattan’s upper west side off of West 72nd Street.
The ground-floor space that was slated to house the synagogue was originally purchased in 2008 for $1.65 million by savvy businessmen Ilan Bracha and Haim Binstock through an entity that they co-founded called B+B Investment Group, according to a report in The Real Deal. Both men had plans to donate the space to Rabbi Pinto, according to a New York Observer report, but were plagued with numerous setbacks.
One such hindrance in their plans occurred in 2010 when a condo board had a judgment issued against the two men for “allegedly failing to pay common charges, interest and other fees.” $1.2 million in foreclosure proceedings were initiated by Bank of America in May of 2011 against Bracha, Binstock and Rabbi Pinto.
“As of May 16, 2011, the principal balance due and owing under the terms of the note was $1,207,694.24,” the filing by Bank of America stated. The filing also indicated that payments due to the BofA had not been made since January of that year. All three men are cited as part of the LLC — Pinto Bracha & Binstock LLC — that is named on the lien, according to city records.
It would appear that Rabbi Pinto’s synagogue on Manhattan’s east side may also be in financial jeopardy, as it was reported last week that the Corigin Real Estate Group, a Manhattan based private equity firm, filed foreclosure proceedings on $20 million in loans, according to the Real Deal.
As was reported by The Jewish Voice in February, Rabbi Pinto’s troubles continued to escalate when Menashe Arbiv, the head of the elite Lahav 433 unit of the Israel Police, announced his resignation. According to the allegations, Arbiv was one of multiple senior police officers who took bribes from Rabbi Pinto in exchange for information on other cases in which the rabbi was involved.
Arbiv’s resignation came on the heels of an investigation by the FBI in the United States. In January, a gag order on the corruption case was lifted. At that time it was revealed that Arbiv, whose former unit is popularly called “the Israeli FBI,” was also the subject of a probe by the Justice Ministry unit that investigates crimes by police, according to a Jerusalem Post report.
The allegations deal with the time that Arbiv was serving as Israel Police attaché in New York and purportedly taking bribes from Rabbi Pinto and his associates.
An associate of Rabbi Pinto expressed concern that Arbiv was trying to skirt prosecution, and said that the rabbi hoped the police would not pass up this chance to uncover police corruption.
Rabbi Pinto was listed as the seventh-richest rabbi in Israel last year by Forbes Israel and has served as an adviser to a group of Israel’s elite.
Since 2010, Rabbi Pinto has been the target of a case that the FBI has been investigating against Rep. Michael Grimm (R) who serves parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn in his congressional capacity. Israel National News has reported that Grimm is under investigation for alleged illegal donations to his 2010 congressional campaign. During the campaign, INN reported that Grimm received support from Ofer Biton, who at the time was one of the Rabbi Pinto’s top aides. Biton was later accused of having embezzled millions of dollars from Rabbi Pinto’s congregation.
INN also reported that Grimm and Biton allegedly accepted contributions from wealthy individuals connected to Rabbi Pinto in violation of campaign law. Among other things, they allegedly took large cash donations, and accepted donations from foreigners without green cards.
According to the INN report, Rabbi Pinto has reportedly leveled his own charges against Grimm, claiming that Grimm’s associates attempted to blackmail him if he did not encourage his followers to donate to Grimm’s campaign.
Rabbi Pinto turned witness in the FBI case. While there are conflicting reports regarding what followed, all parties seem to agree that the FBI case was complicated by a bribery case in Israel against Rabbi Pinto.
Around the time that Rabbi Pinto agreed to testify for the FBI, he allegedly attempted to bribe a senior police officer in Israel, Ephraim Bracha. Bracha reported the alleged bribe to his superiors immediately, and is not facing charges in the incident.
INN also reported that other sources, quoted by Mako, accused Congressman Grimm of involvement in the Israeli case, saying that Grimm is trying to use his influence in Israel to hurt Rabbi Pinto, in order to undermine the investigation into his own activities in America.
According to the report, a former Israeli minister who was apparently speaking on Grimm’s behalf made an attempt to convince Rabbi Pinto not to testify against Grimm.
The FBI surveillance of Rabbi Pinto over the charges involving Grimm reportedly meant that American agents collected much of the evidence that led to the latest corruption charges.