Let’s review: Solomon Dwek, the son of a prominent rabbi in the exceedingly insular and tight-knit Syrian Jewish community, gets wrapped up in some unsavory business (specifically, a multimillion-dollar real estate Ponzi scheme involving dozens of properties in northern New Jersey), and winds up getting arrested trying to kite more than $50 million in checks. Prosecutors tell Dwek he might face 30 years in prison, along with some hefty fines, if he’s convicted on the bank and mortgage fraud charges—never mind what else they might have found on him—but, you know, they’d be willing to consider a deal if he has anything interesting to tell them. Dwek, a burly 37-year-old, promptly decides to go undercover and participate in a three-year sting operation that expanded over time to include not just his own business partners, but five senior rabbis, including the 87-year-old chief rabbi of the American Syrian community, and what seems like half the elected officials in northern New Jersey.
And what did that assistance buy? Dwek pleaded guilty yesterday on one count each of money laundering and bank fraud; he is now a pariah in his community, where his own father publicly referred to him as though he were dead (though he did not actually sit shiva, contrary to some reports). And since all these people are so angry at him, he’s now apparently living under federal protection. Plus, it turns out, the U.S. Attorney’s office still plans to recommend that the presiding judge sentence Dwek to serve between 105 and 135 months in prison—which is a little less than nine years or a little more than 11, give or take whatever extra they offer for his services as a trial witness, if needed.
In other words, he got about 70 percent off. We think that sounds like a great setup for a MasterCard “priceless” ad, but apparently Peter Willis, a lawyer representing two politicians ensnared in the case, thinks it’s a bargain. “The U.S. attorneys gave him his Hanukkah gift early this year,” Willis told the Star-Ledger. “That is pretty lenient.”