TRENTON, New Jersey - A New York man pleaded guilty Thursday to brokering the sale of black-market organs in what prosecutors said was the first ever federal conviction for illegally selling human kidneys for profit.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom in Trenton to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for New Jersey-based customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more. He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to broker an illegal kidney sale.
Each of the four counts carries a maximum five-year prison sentence plus a fine of up to $250,000. Rosenbaum also agreed to forfeit $420,000 in real or personal property that was derived from the illegal kidney sales.
Prosecutors say Rosenbaum would buy organs from vulnerable people in Israel for $10,000 and sell them to desperate patients.
Rosenbaum, 60, of Brooklyn, was arrested in July 2009 in New Jersey's largest ever corruption sting. Though he was one of more than 40 people arrested, including politicians and rabbis in New Jersey and Brooklyn, and was not a rabbi himself, the image of rabbis illegally selling kidneys made its way into the routines of late-night comedians for weeks afterward.
Rosenbaum was arrested after he tried to set up a kidney sale to a man posing as a crooked businessman but who actually was government informant Solomon Dwek, a disgraced real estate speculator facing prison time for a $50 million bank fraud.
Dwek brought Rosenbaum an undercover FBI agent posing as his secretary, who claimed to be searching for a kidney for a sick uncle on dialysis who was on a transplant list at a Philadelphia hospital.
"I am what you call a matchmaker," Rosenbaum said in a secretly recorded conversation. "I bring a guy what I believe, he's suitable for your uncle."
Asked how many organs he had brokered, he said: "Quite a lot," the most recent two weeks earlier.