The Jerusalem District Court has approved a plea deal with 84-year-old Rabbi Eliezer Berland who was accused of defrauding millions of shekels from sick and elderly followers.
That disgraced Hasidic leader, who previously served a 10-month sentence for sexually abusing his female followers, was hit with an 18-month prison sentence — 13 of which had has already served — for numerous offenses, including fraud, extortion, tax offenses and money laundering.
Berland — who headed Shuvu Banim yeshiva which is affiliated with the Breslov Hasidic movement — was arrested along with his wife in February 2020, for conning hundreds of people, including terminally ill patients, out of tens of millions of shekels with false promises of a miracle cure.
The rabbi’s convictions came as part of a settlement that saw Berland plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence, which includes 18 months of jail time, minus time served; a year-long probation period, in eight of which he will have to wear an electronic tagger; a fine of more than NIS 2.4 million as well as compensation to the victims.
“Berland committed a series of acts of fraud against people who appealed to him based on the status that he built and nurtured over the years,” the prosecution stated.
“Berland told those who came to him that if they paid him sums of money ranging between NIS 5,000 and NIS 20,000, their loved one would recover and their illness would go away, all while knowing that the facts he told those who came to him were f.”
“In some cases, after the initial promise was given and the recovery did not come, Berland gave another false promise for which an additional amount was paid."
Berland was also charged with attempted threats after he ordered his followers to “beat to death” some people he believed were acting against Jewish law.
He was also hit with tax evasion and fraud charges after he failed to report the tens of millions he earned from providing spiritual services, and money laundering charges for using various organizations to conceal property he owned.
The Jerusalem District Attorney's Office stated: "Eliezer Berland was convicted after his confession to fraud and extortion through the exploitation of people in distress… He was also convicted of economic offenses, tax fraud, embezzlement of tens of millions of shekels and money laundering offenses.”