President Trump on Wednesday pardoned a host of fraudsters who donated to the Aleph Institute -- an organization that was started by the Orthodox Jewish Chabad-Lubavitch movement which counts the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a member.
Though Trump has yet to find the time to pardon Julian Assange who is slowly dying in prison or Edward Snowden who has been living in exile in Russia, he did find the time to pardon the "king of medicare fraud," Chabad-Lubavitch donor Philip Esformes.
President Kushner's Pardon of the Day: Philip Esformes ripped off Medicare (YOU) for $1.3 billion - to pay for escorts, a million+ dollar Ferrari and a bribe to get his son into the U of PA.— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) December 26, 2020
But he donated to Chabad-Lubavitch, favored by Jared Kushner. https://t.co/ZW4lXon09w
Philip Esformes acquired a $1.6 million Ferrari and a $360,000 Swiss watch and traveled around the United States on a private jet, a spending spree fueled by the spoils from what federal prosecutors called one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history https://t.co/wGxO1POAsN— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) December 25, 2020
Philip Esformes acquired a $1.6 million Ferrari and a $360,000 Swiss watch and traveled around the United States on a private jet, a spending spree fueled by the spoils from what federal prosecutors called one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history.
"Philip Esformes is a man driven by almost unbounded greed," Denise M. Stemen, an agent in the F.B.I.'s Miami field office, said last year after Mr. Esformes, 52, a nursing home operator, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the two-decade scheme that involved an estimated $1.3 billion worth of fraudulent claims.
That prison term ended suddenly this week, when President Trump commuted what remained of Mr. Esformes's sentence.
His rapid path to clemency is a case study in how criminals with the right connections and resources have been able to cut through normal channels and gain the opportunity to make their case straight to the Trump White House.
For Mr. Esformes, that involved support from a Jewish humanitarian nonprofit group that advances prisoners' rights and worked with the White House on criminal justice issues, including clemency and legislation overhauling sentencing laws that was championed by Mr. Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and adviser.
Mr. Esformes's family donated $65,000 to the group, the Aleph Institute, over several years starting after his indictment, according to the group.
His family's name adorns a school in Chicago associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch group of Hasidic Jews, whose leader at the time was involved in the creation of the Aleph Institute in the early 1980s. His father is a rabbi in Florida. His family has also donated for years to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, to which Mr. Kushner has longstanding ties.
Philip Esformes' father, Rabbi Morris Esformes, is a huge supporter of Chabad and has his name on multiple buildings:
Alan Dershowitz, who fought to keep Jeffrey Epstein out of prison, helped secure Esformes' release.
Alan M. Dershowitz, a longtime supporter of clemency who works with the Aleph Institute on a volunteer basis, said the group "played a significant role" in Mr. Esformes's clemency effort and "put together the papers" for the petition.
Mr. Trump has largely overridden a highly bureaucratic process overseen by pardon lawyers for the Justice Department and handed considerable control to his closest White House aides, including Mr. Kushner. They, in turn, have outsourced much of the vetting process to political and personal allies, allowing private parties to play an outsize role in influencing the application of one of the most unchecked powers of the presidency.
Among those allies is the Aleph Institute, a well-known force in criminal justice issues which beyond Mr. Esformes's case has also weighed in on less high-profile clemency requests to Mr. Trump.
The White House on Wednesday specifically cited Aleph in announcing Mr. Trump's commutation of what supporters had contended was a disproportionately severe 20-year sentence given to Daniela Gozes-Wagner, a single mother and midlevel manager in Houston, in a health care fraud and money laundering case.
[...] Aleph has helped advance at least five of the 24 commutations handed down by Mr. Trump, including the recipient of the president's very first commutation — issued in 2017 to Sholom Rubashkin, the chief executive of a kosher meat processing company who was convicted in 2009 on fraud charges — and three commutations announced on Wednesday.
Sholom Rubashkin is a money laundering fraudster who ran a Kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking operation in Iowa employing hundreds of illegal aliens -- including illegal alien children -- that resembled a house of horrors.
The Times continues:
"They are a major, major force of pushing commutations," said Mr. Dershowitz, who recommended a number of clemency petitions that Aleph supported, and says he personally spoke to Mr. Trump about Mr. Rubashkin's case.
Mr. Dershowitz said donations to Aleph were "absolutely not" a factor in deciding which clemency cases to support.
Dershowitz also fought to secure the release of Israeli spy and U.S. traitor Jonathan Pollard, who was pardoned by Obama and recently had the terms of his parole lifted by the Trump administration to allow him to flee to Israel.
Additionally, Dershowitz pushed for Trump to pardon Israeli drug smuggler Ronen Nahmani, which Trump did in August 2019.
The Aleph Institute was founded nearly four decades ago by Rabbi Lipskar of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Hasidic Jews, at the direction of the movement's leader, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson [...]
Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have their own connections to Chabad-Lubavitch, having chosen a home in Washington within walking distance to a Chabad synagogue where they attend Shabbat services. The weekend before the 2016 election, they visited the grave site of Rabbi Schneerson. The Kushner family foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to projects and institutions associated with Chabad, according to a tally by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
After Mr. Esformes was indicted, Rabbi Lipskar said he visited Mr. Esformes in prison at least 25 times and "became almost like his personal rabbi."
Mr. Esformes's father "ramped up his financial commitment to Aleph," according to a 2019 court filing by Mr. Esformes’s lawyers. They said the money was donated partly "in appreciation for all that Aleph has done for Mr. Esformes" and was given to the group "generously, if not exclusively selflessly."
Trump also pardoned Jared Kushner's criminal father, who is a major Chabad donor:
[Jared Kushner's] father, Charles Kushner, served 14 months in a federal prison in Alabama for tax evasion, witness tampering and making illegal donations. The elder Kushner was among those pardoned on Wednesday by Mr. Trump.
Two others he pardoned also had the backing of the Aleph Institute:
Two of the people whose sentences were commuted by Mr. Trump on Wednesday, Mark A. Shapiro and Irving Stitsky, were each sentenced to 85 years in prison for their roles in a $23 million real estate scheme after they turned down plea agreements of less than 10 years each.
"Mark Shapiro is a career con-man who stole millions of dollars from hundreds of investors by selling worthless interests in a bogus investment offering," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said after Shapiro and Stitsky were sentenced in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Maureen Wood said their scam, which included selling ownership interests in properties they didn't own, "resulted in devastating injury to hundreds of victims."
"For many, it wiped out their life savings at the end of their lives when they no longer had the ability to earn substantial amounts of money," Wood said.
The White House's statement specifically says the two's clemency "is supported by the Aleph Institute."
Perhaps Julian Assange and Edward Snowden should send some of their bitcoins over to the Aleph Institute if they want a pardon!
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