NY-based rabbi pleads guilty in LA fraud case

The Associated Press/August 3, 2009

Los Angeles - The head of an Orthodox Jewish group and four members pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy charges in what prosecutors say was a decade-long tax fraud and money laundering scheme.

Naftali Tzi Weisz, 61, entered his plea to one count of conspiracy and could face up to five years in prison at his scheduled sentencing on Nov. 16.

Others who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges were Yaacov Zeivald, 44; Yosef Nachum Naiman, 57; Alan Jay Friedman, 45; and Moshe Arie Lazar, 62, all of Los Angeles. They are scheduled to be sentenced in November.

Prosecutors said Weisz and others helped donors avoid paying federal income taxes by having them make tax-deductible contributions to charitable groups run by Spinka, a New York-based Orthodox Jewish group led by Weisz.

In some instances, Weisz and Zigelman secretly refunded up to 95 percent of the charitable contributions in different ways, prosecutors said. One method was having donors receive cash payments through a money transfer network.

Weisz's assistant, Gabbai Moshe Zigelman, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and was sentenced to two years in prison. Five charitable organizations associated with Spinka were indicted in 2007.

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