- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2014

A personal trainer from Brooklyn has pleaded guilty to attempted kidnapping and torture charges resulting from an FBI sting that has nabbed two rabbis and seven other defendants in a religious divorce scheme.

David Hellman, 31, pleaded guilty in federal court in Trenton, N.J., to kidnap and torture a Jewish man into granting his wife a religious divorce, the FBI said Friday. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hellman said he traveled with a crew of seven to a Trenton warehouse with the intent of forcing the man to give his wife a “get” — a Jewish divorce document.

Some in the “get gang” wore Halloween masks, and carried rope, flashlights, surgical blades, a screwdriver, and plastic bags. They believed they were to meet the unhappy wife’s brother, who was actually an undercover FBI agent.

When the undercover agent left — purportedly to fetch the husband — agents moved in and arrested the group.

Authorities arrested Rabbis Mendel Epstein, 68, a prominent ultra-Orthodox divorce mediator in Brooklyn; and Martin Wolmark, 55, head of Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Monsey, in connection with the case.

The gang didn’t operate out of a sense of chivalry in rescuing women from bad marriages, authorities said, noting that each “get” job paid $50,000 to $60,000.

Defense attorneys for the “get gang” say that such pressure is part of Jewish tradition, arguing that federal and religious laws are at odds.

At least one defendant spoke of forcing compliance using electric cattle prods and plastic bags over husbands’ heads, according to an FBI complaint.