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Rabbi, 5 Others Plead Not Guilty To Tax Fraud

  Tax  -   POSTED: 2007/12/30 23:55

The leader of an Orthodox Jewish sect and five other men accused of tax fraud and money laundering pleaded not guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Naftali Tzi Weisz, the 59-year-old Grand Rabbi of Spinka, was indicted by a federal grand jury Dec. 18 for allegedly taking part in a scheme that cheated the Internal Revenue Service out of at least $33 million in donations to Spinka charities.

Spinka is the name of a Hasidic sect within Orthodox Judaism. The group is named for the European town along the border of Romania and Hungary where it originated.

The six men were accompanied in court by their attorneys and about five supporters at this morning's hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Rosenberg.

Their trial is scheduled for Feb. 12.

According to the indictment, donors to Spinka charities were paid illegal kickbacks, refunding up to 95 percent of the donations, which were laundered through the Israel-based Mizrahi Bank and businesses in downtown Los Angeles' jewelry district.

The donors then claimed a tax deduction on the full amount, prosecutors said.

Weisz is currently free on $2 million bond.

Other named defendants are Gabbai Moshe Zigelman, 60, also of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Joseph Roth, 66, of Tel Aviv, Israel; Yaacov Zeivald, 43, of Valley Village; Los Angeles residents Alan Jay Friedman, 43, and Yosef Nachum Naiman, 55; as well as five Spinka charities.

All six men face lengthy terms in federal prison if convicted on all charges.

Zigelman and the other defendants are free on bond except for Roth, an assistant manager at Mizrahi Bank, who remains in custody. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Tillman granted Roth $1.9 million bond, but stayed his decision so prosecutors could appeal it to another judge.

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