The media often coins clever nicknames for criminals as a way to push papers, whether or not the offenders went by those names in real life.
Such was the case of Mendel Epstein, a corrupt Brooklyn rabbi who moonlighted as a violent extortionist. Epstein scammed a religious-specific style of shakedown, much in demand in the ultra-insular orthodox Jewish community of Brooklyn.
Basically, Epstein had a knack for getting a Get from those who did not want to get got. Allow me to explain.
In Jewish religious law, a Get is a divorce agreement that a husband presents to his wife. Among other things, it restores the wife’s legal status. But until he signs that agreement, the husband holds those rights.
Traditional Jewish law does not recognize U.S. civil law, so a woman cannot initiate a divorce, own property, or serve her husband with a Get. The wife is trapped, unable to move forward with her life, especially from a financial perspective.
Even though a marriage may be emotionally over, if dissolution is not financially agreeable to the husband, he can prolong the union indefinitely.
As revealed in court testimony, several frustrated women in Brooklyn’s Jewish community were more than eager to pay Epstein thousands of dollars to abduct and torture their husbands into signing a Get.
What does this have to do with media-manufactured nicknames?
Well, when Epstein’s ring was rounded up, The New York Daily News ran the following headline:
“The Prodfather: Rabbi used cattle zapper on hubbies till they granted divorces: feds.”
That clever caption was in reference to Epstein’s use of an electric cattle prod as an implement of torture to get those Gets. Epstein was captured on a recording bragging how his ring of ruthless Get-getters beat and tortured their victims, holding them down while he zapped them with massive electric shocks intended to cow large animals, without leaving a mark.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent in undercover agents posing as weeping women desperate for divorces and willing to shell out up to $60,000 to make it happen.
Epstein was more than happy to oblige.
In October 2013, as Epstein and his henchmen descended on a location in Edison, New Jersey, ready to deliver another vicious beat-down, they were surprised by agents and taken into custody.
Based on evidence and testimony, including the damning recording, the Get-getter got 10 years in federal prison when he was sentenced as ringmaster of the nefarious crew. In addition to Epstein, 10 other accomplices were convicted of a range of crimes associated with the ring’s activities.
While the FBI agents collected an extensive array of evidence, the infamous cattle prod was never recovered.