It sounds like a plot from a soap opera, but this kidnapping was a very scary reality for one Jewish man in New Jersey. The reluctant husband says he was abducted and beaten until he agreed to grant his wife a divorce.
Chaim Baruch Rubin, 32, and David Aryeh Epstein, 39, were arrested Thursday, nearly five years after they allegedly took part in the violent kidnapping as part of a plot to coerce the victim into giving his wife a Jewish divorce, also known as a "get."
Police say the victim -- who is not named in the federal court documents -- and his wife were living in Brooklyn, New York when they separated in the summer of 2009. In November of that year, the victim was recruited by Rubin to move to Lakewood, New Jersey for a job at a document destruction company.
A few days after starting his job, Rubin asked the victim to stay late for a private meeting, according to court records. Later that evening, the victim was attacked by a group of men, which included Epstein, the son of a New York rabbi, while walking to his car, according to the criminal complaint.
It says his head was covered with his own jacket, he was bound with zip ties and tape, put in a van, beaten and shocked with a stun gun. He told investigators that he was taken to another location and forced to recite the words necessary for a get to a rabbi who got into the van and recorded the conversation with a video camera.
In terms of strict Jewish law or observance, a get is issued to absolve a marriage. A woman who remarries without a get is not recognized as married and a child produced from that marriage would be a considered a bastard child in the Jewish community.
“Without a get, no matter how long the couple is separated, and no matter how many civil documents they may have in their file cabinet, in the eyes of Jewish law the couple is still 100% married,” according to a Jewish Divorce 101 article on the website Chabad.org.
If a husband refuses to give a get he's, in a sense, leaving the woman in limbo.
One leader of the Jewish community in Ocean County, N.J., who did not want to be named for fear, he said, of repercussions, told NBC10.com the Jewish divorce decree is more likely to be recognized and used by orthodox members of the community. He also said he is not surprised to hear about a case of alleged coercion.
"Let's just say this is not the first time this has happened, but let's just say that most of the time, the guys don't get caught...And there are women who have literally been left stranded for years."
The reluctant husband was eventually tossed out of the van, and left on the side of the road. After making his way to a nearby house to call for help, he was treated for broken ribs, a bruised spine and other injuries.
Rubin and Epstein were arrested in their Lakewood homes. Both were released on $500,000 bail with house arrest.
If they're found guilty, Rubin, Epstein and eight others, four of whom have already pleaded guilty to extortion charges, face a maxium sentence of life behind bars.