2 prominent Orthodox Jewish rabbis arrested in divorce extortion case

The FBI says the group used intimidation and force to obtain religious divorces for Orthodox Jewish women.

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MONSEY - The arrest of two prominent rabbis in a case of alleged kidnapping, ransom and torture continues to reverberate throughout the entire Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey.

The FBI arrested Rabbi Martin Wolmark of yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, and Rabbi Mendel Epstein, a prominent ultra-Orthodox divorce mediator in Brooklyn, on Wednesday.

Both men were arrested along with eight other associates by the FBI in a crackdown on the group that they say used intimidation and force to obtain religious divorces for Orthodox Jewish women from unrelenting men.

In some cases, investigators say Epstein and his accomplices were paid $100,000 by women seeking divorces in a community where it's generally not accepted.

The FBI says it caught the suspects in a sting operation where the suspects allegedly plotted to kidnap a man to force him to grant a religious divorce.

According to the FBI complaint, Epstein told an undercover agent that they used cattle prods, karate, handcuffs and even placed plastic bags over the men's heads to get them to cooperate.

Some in the community say that what the rabbis are accused of doing is a necessary evil, but others say it's akin to organized crime. 

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