New York man admits brokering illegal kidney transplants for three
A New York man became the first person convicted of black-market organ trafficking in the United States when he admitted on Thursday that he had brokered three illegal kidney transplants for customers in New Jersey.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 60, an Israeli citizen who lives in Brooklyn, was arrested after he tried to set up a kidney sale to Solomon Dwek, a disgraced real estate speculator and FBI informant who awaits sentencing on charges of trying to defraud Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank of $50 million.
Rosenbaum, who was arrested in July 2009 in an FBI crackdown on money laundering and political corruption in New Jersey, pleaded guilty in federal court in Trenton to three counts of organ trafficking and one count of conspiracy.
He said three ailing people in New Jersey paid him a total of $410,000 to arrange the sale of kidneys from healthy donors and an undercover FBI agent paid him $10,000.
A 1984 U.S. law bans the sale of human organs.
Rosenbaum's attorneys released a statement saying their client had performed a lifesaving service for desperately ill people who had been languishing on official transplant waiting lists.
Rosenbaum was one of 44 people, including politicians and rabbis, in the FBI's widespread corruption and money laundering probes.
The cooperating witness in many of the cases was Dwek, a New Jersey resident and son of a rabbi who was arrested in May 2006 when the FBI charged him with trying to defraud PNC Bank.
Dwek, who was wearing a wire for federal investigators, brought Rosenbaum an undercover FBI agent posing as his secretary, who claimed to be searching for a kidney for a sick uncle on dialysis and on a transplant list at a Philadelphia hospital.
When Rosenbaum was asked in a secretly recorded conversation how many organs he had brokered, he replied, "Quite a lot," including one two weeks earlier.
"So far, I've never had a failure," Rosenbaum bragged on tape. "I'm doing this a long time."
He faces as many as five years in prison on each of the four counts. The judge set sentencing for Feb. 2.
Richard Finkel, an attorney for Rosenbaum, said his client will ask the judge to spare him from prison.
Dwek, who is scheduled to be sentenced for the bank fraud case in March, was jailed in June for violating a cooperation agreement with the government when he was accused of failing to return a rental car and lying to the FBI about it.