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Orthodox Jewish rabbi admits role in plot to obtain religious divorces through force

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TRENTON, New Jersey — An Orthodox Jewish rabbi on Wednesday admitted conspiring to travel from New York to New Jersey to force a Jewish man to give his wife a religious divorce through threats of violence, federal prosecutors said.

Martin Wolmark, 56, faces five years in prison when he is sentenced May 18 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce to commit extortion.

Prosecutors say Wolmark spoke with a woman and her brother in August 2013 about obtaining a religious divorce — known as a "get" — from the woman's recalcitrant husband. But he didn't know the woman and her brother were undercover FBI agents and that the conversation was recorded by law enforcement.

Wolmark recommended that the pair speak with another rabbi who he knew previously used violence to coerce husbands into giving gets to their wives. Wolmark then initiated a conference call with them and the other rabbi, and the agents met with that rabbi the following week.

Prosecutors say a group of Wolmark's conspirators traveled from New York to a warehouse in Edison, New Jersey, in October 2013 with the intent of forcing the purported husband to give his wife a get by means of violence and threats of violence.

Six of the co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to traveling to New Jersey to commit extortion.

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