Skip To Content
We’ve Taken Down the Forward Paywall: An Open Letter to Our ReadersRead Now
Fast Forward

Rabbi Pinto, Disgraced Guru to Stars, Goes Free After Year in Prison

Yoshiyahu Pinto, an Israeli rabbi who has counseled such celebrities as LeBron James, was released from prison after serving a one-year sentence for bribery.

Pinto, 43, was freed Wednesday from Nitzan Prison, where he served his time in the medical center. He has cancer and is in poor health.

His appeal to reduce the prison sentence to community service was denied one year ago by Israel’s Supreme Court.

In a plea deal finalized in April 2015, he pleaded guilty to charges of bribery, attempted bribery and obstruction of justice in his effort to acquire information in another investigation about him. Pinto, the head of several charity organizations and yeshivas in Ashdod, in southern Israel, and in the United States, agreed to provide evidence that he bribed a senior police official.

Pinto committed to continue therapy after prison, Ynet reported. He reportedly was a well-behaved prisoner.

“I feel like a criminal,” Pinto said in a meeting with the parole board, Ynet reported. “Several people left religion because they saw a rabbi give a bribe. I live in constant fear. I retired from public life and I am not a rabbi until I feel that I am worthy, and that definitely won’t happen in the next year or two. I was serious when I said I made a mistake.”

Prosecutors reportedly believe he is at risk to return to his illegal ways.

Pinto built a lucrative nonprofit network and a devoted following based on his teachings derived from the kabbalah. Prominent Israelis, politicians, businessmen and sports figures have sought counsel from Pinto on business and personal matters. Along with James, an NBA superstar, they include former Rep. Anthony Weiner, businessman Jay Schottenstein and Israeli soccer star Guy Levy.

Pinto is the great-grandson of the well-known Morocco-born mystic known as the Baba Sali.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.