According to The New York Times, followers of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto have accused a former aide, Ofer Biton, of taking money intended for charity. Moreover, they say that Biton hatched a plan with Torossian to push negative news in the media. The story says:
The rabbi’s followers have also charged that Mr. Biton and Ronn Torossian, a public relations agent based in Manhattan, engaged in a scheme in which they leaked purportedly damaging information about the rabbi to reporters. Then, the followers said, Mr. Biton pushed to have Mr. Torossian put on retainer to help put an end to the bad publicity.
No one has been charged or found guilty of anything. However, the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI have stepped in to investigate.
In the story, Biton denies “any involvement whatsoever in any plot.” Torossian also said he had no comment in the story. He sent us an email with a short statement: “I have no knowledge of any of the absurd allegations alluded to,” he wrote.
Shortly after, he added to his comments, also via email.
Torossian sent us the following:
This so called rabbi is a crook, whose own father in law this month accused him of committing money laundering. I donated time, money and resources to this man mistakenly, and this media report is factually inaccurate and libelous. I have had no contact with this individual in more than a year and will shortly release more information. There is zero truth to these allegations.
The story says Torossian first attended Rabbi Pinto’s services in 2008. A source in the story says she heard Torossian demand money from the rabbi in 2010. Another source says negative comments posted on Wikipedia can be traced to one or more members of Torossian’s staff.
Rabbi Pinto has powerful friends and followers. The story says disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, LeBron James, politicians abroad, and business moguls have met with him. More info in the NYT story here.