Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rabbi Pinto’s Followers Blame Aides for Missing Millions

Six years ago, an Orthodox rabbi and mystic who traces his lineage to King David moved to New York from Israel and amassed a notable following. Real estate titans fetched him at the airport. Members of Congress attended his Hebrew classes. Even LeBron James, who is not Jewish, borrowed a friend’s yacht to consult the rabbi in private. 

Lately though, the image of the rabbi, Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, 38, has seemed tarnished. Millions of dollars in donations to the rabbi’s congregation cannot be accounted for, according to his aides and lawyers. Articles in Jewish publications have questioned his judgment. Camera crews have trailed him, with reporters shouting questions about improprieties. 

Now, the rabbi’s close followers are disclosing what they say is the source of many of his troubles. They said they told federal investigators that the rabbi had been the victim of a bizarre embezzlement and extortion plot that was carried out by two former members of his inner circle, who stole his congregation’s money and tried to frame him.[...]

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