Rabbi to celebrities loses appeal to void prison term in Israel

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Supreme Court upheld a one-year prison sentence for Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James.

Pinto had appealed the sentence, part of a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to bribing a senior police official. The Supreme Court announced its decision on Tuesday.

In a 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 more senior officer.

His attorneys had asked the Supreme Court to cancel the prison sentence due to the important evidence he provided to the state. Pinto also is reported to be in ill health.

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A day before the ruling, a New York State Supreme Court judge dismissed a $30 million lawsuit filed by a charity run by Pinto claiming that an Israeli journalist’s report on the charity, Mosdot Shuva Israel, and Pinto’s top U.S. official, Ben Zion Suky, made false and damaging statements about them. The judge found that a New York court would not have jurisdiction over the case.

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

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.

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

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