Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto Sentenced to 1 Year in Prison

May 12, 2015  

The Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto to one year in prison over charges of bribery and obstruction of justice on Tuesday, after numerous scandals and myriad delays.

Pinto will also pay a fine of one million shekels ($258,730), Justice Oded Marduk ruled.

Execution of the prison sentence was delayed by 45 days to allow Pinto to appeal to the Supreme Court.

In his explanation during the sentncing, the judge noted that the plea bargain Pinto had signed was justified, as well as noting that
the allegedly poor medical condition of the rabbi does not justify relief from punishment.

Pinto’s sentencing, and conviction last month, follows multiple attempts by Pinto and his legal team to prevent him arriving in Israel for the arraignment, and a heart attack scare shortly after his arrival that led him to be taken to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv upon landing. 

Pinto allegedly attempted to bribe senior police officer Ephraim Bracha with $200,000 for information about a pending police investigation into the Hazon Yeshaya charity organization, which Pinto was rumored to be closely involved with. Bracha immediately reported the incident to his superiors, prompting a separate investigation against Rabbi Pinto himself. 

That investigation revealed that Pinto allegedly tried to bribe several other officers for information about the case against Hazon Yeshaya. The charity, which was supposed to have provided millions of dollars to Holocaust survivors and ran a popular soup kitchen and volunteer network in Jerusalem, closed in 2012 under allegations of fraud.

The allegations claim that several members of the charity – including Pinto – stole much of the food donated to the kitchen and sold it for “tens of millions of dollars,” according to a 2012 Ha’aretz article. As such, Pinto will also be indicted for other charges, including obstruction of justice and money laundering relating to the case. 

In addition, Pinto’s associates claim that Menashe Arbiv, the former commander of the Lahav 433, received various benefits, including help receiving a visa to the United States for his son and wife.

To this end, the rabbi allegedly gave $2,000 to Arbiv’s son every month, as well as a 700,000 shekel ($190,000) discount for the senior police officer to buy a home in an exclusive section of northern Tel Aviv. The associates added that the rabbi and his aides also helped Arbiv when he served as a representative of the Israeli Police in the US.

Despite admitting to involvement in the crimes, Pinto himself has been highly vocal over his innocence, claiming in hyperbolic statements to the followers of his Shuvu Yisrael sect that the verdict has “stabbed them with a million knives” and claiming he is “the most persecuted in this generation.” 

Shuvu Yisrael responded Tuesday in a similar vein.

“The judgement placed upon our leader is difficult and painful, and does not reveal at all the essence of the matters at hand, nor the facts and actions in [Pinto’s] merit that point to lessen his sentence,” the group said in a statement.

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