Former congressional fundraiser in court on immigration charges

(JTA) — A former top fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, who is also a former aide to an influential rabbi, was arrested for lying on his immigration documents.


Ofer Biton, an Israeli citizen,  was arraigned Friday in Brooklyn federal court, charged with lying about his financial situation when he applied two years ago for a special immigration visa for foreigners who invest $500,000 or more in a U.S. business.

Biton was ordered held without bail on an immigration detainer, according to the New York Daily News.

The New York Times reported in January that Biton, a former aide to Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, was under federal investigation over accusations that he embezzled millions of dollars from the rabbi’s congregation. The Times also reported that it conducted interviews with followers and associates of the rabbi who said that Biton strong-armed donations for Grimm, a freshman New York lawmaker, that were over the legal limit, and from foreign donors without a green card, which is illegal.

The Grimm campaign collected some $500,000 from Pinto’s followers, the Times reported. 

Grimm has admitted to working with Biton to collect money from American members of Pinto’s congregation, but he denies any wrongdoing involving Pinto or knowledge of any improper donations, or any other illegal activity involving Biton or other members of Pinto’s congregation.

Grimm was the first Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to back the latest push for clemency for convicted spy for Israel Jonathan Pollard.

Grimm is running for re-election in November.

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