Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto — a spiritual leader with well-established ties to New York’s real estate community — was arrested Thursday in Israel, and is being investigated for money laundering and attempting to bribe law enforcement, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. His wife, Debora Rivka Pinto, was also arrested, according to the report. The couple has been released, and is on house arrest.
A lawyer for the Pintos called the allegations “baseless,” Haaretz reported.
Pinto, 39, is said to be a religious advisor to a bevy of local real estate VIPs. The developer Haim Binstock and the Sapir Organization’s Zina Sapir are reported to be followers of the rabbi, and the developer Ben Zion Suky — named in an Upper East Side foreclosure suit earlier this year involving Pinto’s wife — is a close aide to Pinto. Other industry figures, such as Douglas Elliman’s Mickey Roth, are reported to have consulted with Pinto on business matters.
The religious leader has been planning to build a synagogue on the ground floor of Heritage at Trump Place, located at 240 Riverside Boulevard. Ilan Bracha, a Keller Williams broker and the founder of the Bracha Group there, and Binstock, had purchased the place and had planned to turn it over to the rabbi. Last year, Binstock’s wife was reported to have written $56,000 check to save the 2,700-square-foot space from foreclosure.
Pinto has also been tied to a federal investigation over whether illegal donations were made by the rabbi’s followers to Rep. Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island and portions of Brooklyn. The rabbi’s former aide, Ofer Biton, was arrested in August for immigration fraud — and is alleged to have solicited campaign donations on behalf of Grimm above and beyond legal limits and from those who are not citizens of the United States. This month, The Real Deal called Rep. Michael Grimm’s race against Mark Murphy for New York’s 13th District seat one key political battles with significant implications for real estate and housing. —Gabrielle Birkner