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Rabbi, wife charged in kidnapping plot

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: A lawyer for the rabbi says his client will be cleared
  • An FBI affidavit describes an elaborate plot
  • The victim was threatened with being buried alive, the FBI says
  • "Do you want a funeral or a divorce?" agents say the victim's father was asked

New York (CNN) -- A New Jersey rabbi beat and kidnapped an Israeli man and threatened to bury him alive unless he agreed to a divorce and his family paid off his ex-wife, federal prosecutors say.

David Wax and his wife Judy, surrendered to FBI agents in Red Bank, New Jersey, on Monday to face kidnapping charges dating back to an incident in October, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Trenton.

"The victim was shown a body bag and told that if he did not comply, he would be buried alive in the Pocono Mountains," according to an FBI agent's affidavit released Monday. "A dark-colored body bag was brought into the room and laid on the victim by Wax, who stated, 'For you to get used to the size.' "

David Wax is also charged with calling the man's father in Israel and demanding $100,000 for the ex-wife -- asking him, according to court papers, "Do you want a funeral or a divorce?"

A lawyer for the rabbi said federal prosecutors have taken over the case from state authorities, who dropped previous charges. But "whatever the form, state or federal, Rabbi Wax is not guilty of these charges," the attorney, Mitchell Ansell, told CNN.

"He has eight children, no prior criminal record and [is] a pillar of his community," Ansell said in a statement Tuesday morning. "We are confident that when the facts are made public, he will be cleared of these charges and his good name and reputation restored."

Neither the divorced couple nor their relatives were named in the charges. The couple are still involved in a contested divorce, including child custody issues, in a religious court in Israel, and the husband has refused to consent to the dissolution of their marriage, court papers state.

According to the charges, the man had been working with Wax, a rabbi in Lakewood, New Jersey, and showed up to a late-night meeting at the Wax home in mid-October. When he arrived, Wax brought him to an upstairs bedroom, where two unidentified men jumped from behind, beat, bound and blindfolded him, the affidavit states. Wax also took part in the beating, according to the paperwork.

During the beating, the man agreed to give his wife the divorce. But the pummeling continued for several hours, the papers state -- and one of the attackers told him that the assault was the man's ex-wife's "revenge" for his delaying the proceedings.

Afterward, according to the affidavit, Wax and the victim got into a taxi, then into a car driven by Judy Wax. She took them to the man's cousin's house in Brooklyn, where they let him go early the following morning, the charges state. Investigators who came to the Waxes' home two days later found the carpet in the room where the man said the beating had taken place had been changed the same day, according to the affidavit.

The FBI affidavit states David Wax's cell phone records and video from an automatic teller machine support the victim's account. There were five calls between David Wax's cell phone and a number in Israel "associated with" the ex-wife and her family, according to the affidavit.

In addition, the affidavit states the ex-wife had arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport from Tel Aviv the day before the incident and flew back via New York's John F. Kennedy airport the day after her ex-husband was turned loose.

CNN's Chris Boyette contributed to this report.