Levy Izhak Rosenbaum indictment - Kidney "Broker".PDF, 22 KB
The document tells the story of how the partnership allegedly snared Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a self-styled real estate dealer from Brooklyn. Over the course of about 18 months, the complaint says, Rosenbaum worked out a deal with the agent to obtain a kidney from an Israeli don
As federal investigators reeled in the sprawling net of a political corruption probe, court documents say, they found a different kind of criminal trapped inside: a cocky trafficker of black-market kidneys who exploited desperate patients for extraordinary profits.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, an undercover FBI agent teamed with an informant -- who cooperated after a 2006 bank fraud charge -- to uncover the scheme. The document tells the story of how the partnership allegedly snared Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a self-styled real estate dealer from Brooklyn. Over the course of about 18 months, the complaint says, Rosenbaum worked out a deal with the agent to obtain a kidney from an Israeli donor.
He planned to give the donor $10,000, federal authorities said, and charged his client a handsome fee: $160,000.
"I am what you call a matchmaker," the complaint quotes Rosenbaum as telling the undercover agent.
Had the transaction been real, federal authorities said, it would have been the most recent chapter in Rosenbaum's 10-year career as an illicit middleman. In each case, he would take a blood sample from a prospective recipient and give it to an associate at an insurance company who could analyze it at a lab without arousing suspicion. The sample would then be shipped to Israel, and the necessary people paid off to find a match.
"He prayed on vulnerable people, " said assistant US district attorney Mark McCarron.
Rosenbaum would then arrange the donor's flight to New York, including obtaining a visa, authorities said. Once the donor arrived in the US, Rosenbaum would help fabricate a relationship between donor and recipient -- a story both would repeat during interviews with medical professionals. The two might pretend to business associates, for instance, or close friends from a religious congregation.
"The hospitals seemed to be in the dark," McCarron said.
The sequence of events leading to Rosenbaum's arrest started in February 2008, when the informant telephoned Rosenbaum from New Jersey and said he wanted to obtain a human kidney for someone seeking a transplant.
Three days later, the FBI agent and informant traveled from Tinton Falls to Rosenbaum's home in the Mapleton section of Brooklyn. The most imposing structure on a short block, the two-family home was yesterday distinguished by a security camera aimed at Rosenbaum's front door and a large insignia of the letter R on the mailbox.
Inside the house, on Feb. 18, 2008, the informant told Rosenbaum he was in the real estate business and introduced the undercover agent as "my secretary for, like, 12 years."
The agent, according to the complaint, then told Rosenbaum her uncle had been on dialysis for two years as a result of "polycystic disease." At the time, the agent said, that uncle was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant at a Philadelphia hospital.
Rosenbaum allegedly responded by noting the hospital would rigorously screen the potential donor for diseases -- but that he could make everything work out.
"I'm doing this a long time," the document quotes Rosenbaum as saying. "It's illegal to buy or sell organs. You can't even mention it."
The parties to the deal then allegedly hammered out a price: $160,000, the first $10,000 of which was to be paid by checks drawn up by the informant's invented real estate company. The checks would be laundered through what Rosenbaum initially decided would be a "congregation," but later switched to a "charitable organization."
After stalling in November by telling Rosenbaum the supposedly sick uncle had a "mini-stroke," the FBI agent and informant met in Rosenbaum's basement during July 2009. Rosenbaum shored up his credentials, according to the criminal complaint, saying he had spent 10 years brokering deals that numbered "quite a lot" - including one only two weeks earlier.
At one point, the undercover agent asked how much money the donor would receive.
"Don't worry about it," Rosenbaum allegedly replied.
Little was immediately clear yesterday about Rosenbaum's background. Two residents on his street who knew him declined to comment, while a third said she'd never spoken with him.
Rosenbaum faces five years in prison in connection with his charge. His bail was set at $3 million.