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Top Figures In Global Money-Laundering Network Sentenced To Prison

March 24, 1989

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The U.S. leader of a global ring that laundered drug-linked profits by claiming they were Israeli investments, at one point employing a Hasidic rabbi, was sentenced to 52 months in prison Thursday.

Sentenced with ringleader Adi Tal was his chief lieutenant, Nir Goldeshtein, who received 40 months from U.S. District Judge John Bissell. Each man pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and two counts of specific currency violations.

The 2 1/2 -year investigation led to the indictment of 16 people last March in Seattle, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Colombia and Israel.

The government alleged $25 million was laundered during an 18-month period ending in March. The money in this case was shipped to Panama or Colombia or smuggled to Europe and Israel and wired to Panamanian bank accounts, officials said.

In a memorandum released after Tal’s sentencing, the government provided more details about the money’s origin.

The government said Tal, a former airline worker who emigrated from Israel in 1983, worked with Jose Stroh, allegedly a primary money-launderer for the Cali, a Colombian cocaine cartel that is one of the world’s major exporters of the drug.

According to the memorandum, Tal dealt repeatedly with Stroh over the telephone and directed money to be transferred to bank accounts controlled by Stroh.

Tal’s attorney, Philip R. Sellinger, said his client was recruited by a lifelong friend in Israel - Enrique Korc, a fugitive in the case and Stroh’s nephew. He said Korc never told Tal the source of the money. The government has said it was tied to drugs.

Tal and Goldeshtein were the last to be sentenced in the case. Both men, 28, had recently moved from the Seattle area to Edison before their arrest.

Of the others indicted, nine have been sentenced. The wives of Goldeshtein and Tal entered a pre-trial diversion program and the rest are fugitives. One defendant, Rabbi Sholom Levitin, is the founder and head of Chabad House, a community center for the Lubavitch Hasidic sect.

Levitin was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house. Tal and Goldeshtein ″occasionally invested thousands of dollars at a time″ with Levitin in addition to his duties in the network, officials said. Levitin denied knowing the money he admitted laundering was ill-gotten.

According to government papers, Tal told his mostly Israeli operatives that the money was unrelated to crime, Rabner said. Tal explained that the cash came from Israel for investment in the United States or that it was somehow connected to the Mossad, Israel’s secret service.

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