The Tel Aviv District Court convicted Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, based on his confession, of bribery, an offer to bribe and obstruction of justice.
Pinto came to the court directly from Ichilov Hospital in midtown Tel Aviv, after being admitted Monday upon his arrival in Israel, when he complained of feeling unwell. He underwent a cardiac catheterized examination that ruled out a heart attack. Rabbi Pinto is also suffering from cancer and this week will start undergoing aggressive chemotherapy.
At the beginning of the court session, Rabbi Pinto announced that he pleads guilty on all the items on his indictment, which had been read to him by his lawyers. He confessed in a plea bargain to bribing Brigadier General Ephraim Bracha, head of the police national fraud unit.
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Bracha had reported the proposed bribery and the actual bribe to his superiors in the police.
According to the plea agreement, the prosecution will seek to impose real prison time, but the defense will be free to object in court.
The sentencing hearing will be held in two weeks, until then, Judge Oded Mudrik accepted the prosecution’s request to order Rabbi Pinto to turn in his passport.
Pinto’s attorney, Eyal Rosovsky, said the defense is planning to present author Elie Wiesel as a character witness for the rabbi.
A spiritual leader of thousands—many of them Israeli expats in New York—and a Kabbalist, Rabbi Pinto, of Moroccan descent, is believed to be the scion of miracle workers. He has also been described as “a rabbi to the rich and famous.”
Years ago, Rabbi Pinto founded the Shuva Israel yeshiva in Ashdod, Israel, which has sprouted two additional yeshivas in Ashkelon, one in Kiryat Malachi, three in Ashdod, and one in Rishon LeZion, serving some 500 rabbinical candidates. His organization also runs two schools for girls in Ashdod and a technical school in Ashkelon.
In addition, Rabbi Pinto’s organizations provide living expenses to 180 widows and food for needy Israeli families.
Rabbi Pinto’s center in Ashod runs four synagogues serving more than 1, 200 worshippers, and a soup kitchen that provides 3, 000 meals a day.
In the U.S., Rabbi Pinto has established a network of yeshivas in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.