Rabbi to celebrities enters Israeli prison for bribery

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James, entered prison to serve a one-year term for bribery.

Pinto arrived at Nitzan Prison in central Israel on Tuesday afternoon, later than scheduled after he first made an unexpected visit to a Jerusalem hospital for medical treatment.

He is scheduled to serve his prison sentence in the medical center of the prison due to poor health, including cancer.

His appeal to reduce the prison sentence to community service was denied last month by Israel’s Supreme Court.

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In the plea deal, finalized last April, the rabbi pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice in his effort to acquire information in another investigation about him. Pinto, the head of several charity organizations and yeshivas in Ashdod, in southern Israel, and in the United States, agreed to provide evidence that he bribed a senior police official.

In a lecture to his followers on Monday, Pinto said, according to Haaretz:   “They are not breaking our spirit. We’ve gotten through serious illnesses, and we did not fear or worry for a moment. We meant every word we said in our classes. That’s why it’s easy for us, it’s comfortable for us – all told we feel like we’re just turning a page. The way of God will be our true victory.”

Prominent Israelis, politicians, businessmen and sports figures have sought counsel from Pinto on business and personal matters. Along with James, an NBA superstar, they include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, businessman Jay Schottenstein and Israeli soccer star Guy Levy.

Pinto, a kabbalist, is the great-grandson of the well-known Morocco-born mystic known as the Baba Sali.

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