A Brooklyn rabbi has pleaded guilty to peddling black market kidneys from Israel for more than $100,000 each, federal prosecutors said.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, 60, an Israeli living in Brooklyn, made at least $420,000 in the scam to provide three organs for transplant from Israel, according to New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Prosecutors described Rosenbaum, the first person ever convicted of criminally transferring vital organs, as a cold-hearted dealer who profited off others’ illnesses. He bought the kidneys in Israel for about $10,000 each.
“Rosenbaum admitted he was not new to the human kidney business when he was caught brokering what he thought was a black market deal,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “A black market in human organs is not only a grave threat to public health, it reserves lifesaving treatment for those who can best afford it at the expense of those who cannot.”
The Forward first reported on the ghoulish ring in 2009. It also covered how the arrest of Rosenbaum spurred calls to reform the nation’s organ donation system.
But his lawyers portrayed him as a do-gooder who helped save lives in the Jewish community, the New York Daily News reported.
Rosenbaum described one case like this, the paper said: “The son told me the father has kidney failure … I helped him.”
Rosenbaum faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine.