A New York man has pleaded guilty to brokering the sale of black-market organs in what prosecutors said was the first US conviction for illegally selling human kidneys for profit.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum pleaded guilty in an American federal court on Thursday to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for New Jersey-based customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 (£74,3000) or more. He also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to broker an illegal kidney sale.
Prosecutors say Rosenbaum would buy organs from vulnerable people in Israel for $10,000 and sell them to desperate patients. As part of the scheme, prosecutors say, the organ donors were brought from Israel to the US, where they underwent surgery to remove the kidneys. They did not identify which hospitals in the US received the donors and their kidneys.
Rosenbaum, 60, was arrested in 2009 in New Jersey's largest-ever corruption sting. He was one of more than 40 people held, including politicians and rabbis in New Jersey and New York.
Police arrested Rosenbaum after he tried to set up a kidney sale to a man posing as a crooked businessman, but who was actually government informant Solomon Dwek, a disgraced real estate speculator facing prison time for a $50m bank fraud.
Dwek introduced Rosenbaum to an undercover FBI agent posing as his secretary, who claimed to be searching for a kidney for a sick uncle on dialysis at a hospital in Pennsylvania.
"I am what you call a matchmaker," Rosenbaum said in a secretly recorded conversation. "I bring a guy... I believe he's suitable for your uncle." Asked how many organs he had brokered, he said: "Quite a lot," the most recent two weeks earlier.
Each of the four counts carries a maximum five-year prison sentence plus a fine of up to $250,000. Rosenbaum also agreed to forfeit $420,000 in property that was derived from the illegal kidney sales.