Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto Ordered NYPD Detective to Arrest Aide's Rival: Lawsuit

Accused of Threats, Intimidation in N.Y. Civil Suit


By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published February 21, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto ordered a New York City police officer to arrest his top aide’s business rival, according to allegations in a civil complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on February 19.

The officer, Detective Eric Patino, allegedly said he would release the rival, an Israeli businessman named Tomer Shohat, if Shohat gave him a computer containing information he had gathered on alleged misconduct by Ben Zion Suky, Pinto’s right-hand man.

Pinto, a powerful Israeli rabbi, is at the center of an unrelated scandal that’s made headlines in Israel in recent weeks. Haaretz reported on February 21 that authorities are preparing to indict Pinto on charges of bribing and threatening Israeli police.

The New York civil suit stems from a conflict over a Manhattan apartment building at 440 West 41st Street that was owned, in part, by a company controlled by Suky. The Forward reported in 2011 that Suky was a former pornography distributor with multiple legal entanglements related to his real estate investments.

The defendants have yet to file a response to the allegations. They do not appear to have obtained representation in the matter. Ben Zion Suky did not respond to a message left on his voicemail. Eric Patino could not be reached at a listed number. The phone at Pinto’s New York synagogue appeared to be off the hook. The NYPD also did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Shohat’s attorney, David Jaroslawicz, said that Shohat, 31, is a former Israel hedge fund manager tasked with recovering a $10.5 million investment that he and others had made in the 440 West 41st Street building.

According to Shohat’s complaint, the company that owned the building, Metro Apartments, had failed to make payments on loans extended by Shohat’s group. Shohat suspected that funds were being misappropriated, so he traveled to the United States from Israel to inspect Metro’s books. Upon arrival, Shohat allegedly discovered that Suky was misappropriating company funds and mismanaging the property.

Shohat allegedly brought his findings to Pinto, who asked Shohat not to report them to the police. Later, according to the complaint, Pinto and Suky threatened to have Shohat injured or to have him arrested by Patino if he continued to investigate irregularities at the building.

When Shohat continued his investigation and reported his findings to the Metro board, he was allegedly threatened again, this time by Pinto’s brother, Menachem Pinto, who is also a defendant in the suit. Suky then accused Shohat of theft and, according to complaint, Pinto and Suky “arranged for…Patino to arrest [Shohat] and charge him with crimes he had not committed.”

Shohat was arrested February 21, 2013. According to the complaint, Patino first told Shohat he would be let go if they could eat lunch together and talk. Later, after Shohat’s attorney had come and gone, Patino allegedly told Shohat that he would let him go if he gave Patino his computer, which contained data about the Metro Apartments investigation.

Following the arrest, Patino filed a felony complaint against Shohat accusing him of stealing $15,000 from a locked petty cash container at 440 West 41st Street. The D.A.’s office filed a motion to dismiss the charges in April.

Patino works both as an NYPD detective and a real estate agent with a commercial real estate brokerage called the Azad Propety Group, according to his LinkedIn profile. Azad Property Group does not have a listed phone number.

The Forward reported in March 2011 on questions about the management of Pinto’s U.S. charities, including the fact that Pinto’s $6.5 million Manhattan townhouse was under foreclosure. In December 2011, the Forward reported that Pinto’s charity had spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury travel and jewelry. Those expenditures included a $75,000 bill for a stay at a fancy Buenos Aires hotel.

The New York Times published a story in December 2011 painting Pinto as the victim of a “bizarre embezzlement and extortion plot” and reported that the FBI and the US Attorney’s office were investigating former Pinto associates in connection to the alleged extortion.

One of those former associates, and Israeli national named Ofer Biton, has since pled guilty to visa fraud. Biton is reportedly under investigation in connection to money he raised from Pinto supporters for the 2010 congressional campaign of Staten Island congressman Michael Grimm.

Still, more than two years later, no charges have been filed in the embezzlement plot described in the Times story.

Instead, it is Pinto and his associates who have been the subject of a handful of criminal inquiries.

On February 12, Haaretz reported that Israeli officials were on the brink of indicting Abraham Israel, the founder of a Pinto-linked charity, for mismanaging the charity. Though the charity claimed in financial statements to distribute 33 million NIS annually, investigators found that it distributed just 6 million NIS each year.

Meanwhile, Pinto himself is about to be indicted for threatening and attempting to bribe Israeli police officers, according to the Feburary 21 Haaretz report. An Israeli police document obtained by Haaretz accuses Pinto of obstructing an investigation into the charity run by Abraham Israel and attempting to bribe senior Israeli police officials.

In October 2012, Pinto and his wife were placed under house arrest in connection to the same bribery case.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.