Celebrity Israeli rabbi pleads guilty to bribery charges

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James, pleaded guilty in a Tel Aviv court to bribery charges.

In a plea deal, Pinto, 39, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice for attempting to bribe a senior police officer for information in another investigation about him. Pinto agreed to provide evidence that he bribed a more senior officer.

He faces up to a year in prison plus fines. He surrendered his passport to the court.

Pinto, the head of several charity organizations and yeshivas in Ashdod, in southern Israel, and in the United States, has been sought out by prominent Israelis, politicians, businessmen and sports figures on business and personal matters. Along with the NBA star James, they include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, businessman Jay Schottenstein and Israeli soccer star Guy Levy.

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The rabbi arrived in Israel on Monday and was rushed to a Tel Aviv hospital after complaining of chest pains. A cardiac catheterization showed that he did not suffer a heart attack.

In April 2014, U.S. prosecutors brought charges against former Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., for receiving large contributions from followers of Pinto. Grimm admitted to receiving several hundred thousand dollars in contributions from Pinto followers.