TRENTON, NJ—An Israeli citizen living in Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for brokering three illegal kidney transplants—in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more—before he was caught conspiring to organize another black market sale, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a/k/a “Isaac Rosenbaum,” 61, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with three counts of acquiring, receiving, and otherwise transferring human organs for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation; and one count of conspiracy to do the same.
The defendant entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson, who also imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court. Rosenbaum’s convictions are the first under the federal statute involving the black market sale of kidneys from paid donors.
“A black market where the moneyed sick can buy replacement parts from the less fortunate is not only grim, it apportions lifesaving treatments unfairly, insults donor dignity, and violates the law,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “Prison is an appropriate punishment for Levy Rosenbaum’s illegal capitalization on others’ desperation. Although Rosenbaum painted himself as a benevolent kidney matchmaker, the criminal profits went right into his pocket.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Rosenbaum admitted that from January 2006 through February 2009, he conspired with others to provide a service, in exchange for large payments, to individuals seeking kidney transplants by obtaining kidneys from paid donors. Specifically, Rosenbaum admitted to arranging three transplants on behalf of New Jersey residents that took place in December 2006, September 2008, and February 2009. Rosenbaum admitted that he was paid approximately $120,000, $150,000, and $140,000, respectively, on behalf of these three recipients.
Rosenbaum’s kidney business was exposed through the use of cooperating criminal defendant Solomon Dwek and an undercover FBI agent (the UC) who was posing as an employee of Dwek and represented to Rosenbaum that her uncle was in need of a kidney transplant. Dwek and the UC first met with Rosenbaum in mid-February 2008, at which time Rosenbaum informed them that “[i]t’s illegal to buy and sell organs,” but assured them that “I’m doing this a long time.” Rosenbaum explained to Dwek and the UC that he would help the recipient and the donor concoct a fictitious story to make it appear that the transplant was the product of a genuine donation and that he would be in charge of babysitting the donor upon the donor’s arrival from overseas. Rosenbaum also informed Dwek and the CW that he would charge $150,000 to arrange the transplant, explaining that the high price was due in part to payments that would be made to individuals in Israel for their assistance in locating the donor.
Rosenbaum met with Dwek and the UC again in August 2008, at which time Rosenbaum required that a blood sample be taken from the UC’s uncle to ensure a donor with the appropriate blood type was located. Rosenbaum related that he had an associate he paid in cash who would take the blood sample and reiterated that he would help coordinate the cover story between the recipient and donor, assuring them that “so far, I’ve never had a failure.” During the meeting, Rosenbaum informed Dwek and the UC that the price had risen to $160,000. He also accepted four blank checks totaling $10,000 from Dwek as a down payment and informed Dwek that the checks would be made payable to a charitable organization, the name of which Rosenbaum would fill in on the checks before depositing them.
At a July 2009 meeting, Rosenbaum informed the UC that he had been arranging kidney transplants like the one to be done on behalf of her uncle for a period of 10 years, the most recent only two weeks earlier.
During his guilty plea, Rosenbaum admitted he informed the FBI agent and the three kidney recipients that he could locate individuals who were willing to donate their kidneys in exchange for money. Rosenbaum admitted he typically located individuals in Israel willing to be paid for giving up their kidneys and that he would be responsible for arranging the paid donors’ travel to the United States as well as their accommodations in the United States before and after the transplant surgery. Rosenbaum admitted that he arranged for blood samples to be drawn from the potential recipients so that appropriate donors could be located. He also acknowledged that he assisted each paid donor and recipient with fabricating cover stories in order to fool hospital employees into believing that the transplant in question was the product of a genuine donation.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Thompson sentenced Rosenbaum to serve three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine in addition to his forfeiture of approximately $420,000—consisting of the $410,000 he accepted for brokering the transplants and the $10,000 down payment he accepted from Dwek.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.