Israeli police have arrested an American rabbi along with four other individuals who have been charged with running an illicit baby-trafficking ring that exploited mentally disabled mothers to illegally provide children to Orthodox Jewish families.
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court made public the news that 44-year-old rabbi Shmuel Puretz has been charged with the heinous crime on Thursday. He heads a yeshiva and was a globalist businessman who split his time between the United States and Israel before his apprehension. He was arrested in February, but a gag order prevented the release of his charges to the public before this week.
Puretz and his alleged accomplices have been conditionally released pending their trials. Puretz is accused of targeting disabled women specifically from haredi Orthodox communities where he knew he could get a premium for their children. He would then send them to America to give birth, and give the babies to foster parents who then paid him a tidy sum. They reportedly received $100,000 to $150,000 in a “handling fee” for each child, making the trafficking operation very lucrative.
The alleged victims maintain that they were coerced or tricked into giving up their children, and the mentally infirmed were the focus of the scheme. One woman, mentioned in court documents only as “Yael,” claims that one of Puretz’s alleged accomplices, rabbi’s wife Rivka Segal, had possessed legal guardianship over her. Segal has reportedly been forced to pay $144,000 in restitution to Yael, although she still denies any wrongdoing.
Yael alleges that she was taken to New York City when she was eight months pregnant. She claims her baby boy was delivered via cesarean section, and then she signed documents under duress that she was unable to understand. Her baby was taken from her at that point, and given to an ultra-Orthodox couple.
Following the birth, Yael said she was held captive in a New York City home for months where she was forced to subside in a basement. Her passport and papers were taken from her, leaving her stranded.
Yael was eventually able to reach a contact in Israel who arranged for her to be returned to her home country, ending her perilous and traumatizing ordeal. Another alleged victim reported that her twin children were taken in a similar situation to what happened to Yael by the same trafficking operation.
Puretz, who is believed to be the mastermind of this illicit plot that has been operational since at least 2016, can be seen here:
לבקשת חדשות 13: הותר לפרסום שמו של אחד מהחשודים המרכזיים בפרשה בין-לאומית של סחר בבני אדם. שמואל פיוריץ, איש עסקים חרדי המתגורר בירושלים ובברוקלין, הוא החשוד שתיווך את עסקת הסחר בתינוק הנחקרת מאז שנת 2016 @ariela770 • לפרטי הפרשה >> https://t.co/qmcfGJhUOo pic.twitter.com/TmV0CS6zi9
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) December 5, 2019
The American rabbi denies any involvement in the scheme, but faces many years in prison if he is convicted of these unfathomable charges of exploitation and human trafficking.
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