Levy Yitzhak Rosenbaum will go down as the first person in United States history against whom actual proof of human organ trafficking was found leading to an arrest. Though there have been other suspected cases of human organ selling, no concrete evidence was ever found until Rosenbaum's case. He was charged as part of a far-reaching 2009 New York and New Jersey crime sweep that ensnared mayors, rabbis, and money launderers. The nature of his crimes have sparked hot debate among master's degree pundits, doctors, and online commentators, but despite his purportedly good intentions Rosenbaum has been fairly roundly condemned.
Rosenbaum was born in Israel but resided in Brooklyn, New York as a member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park. For the charges against him he faces deportation back to Israel, up to 20 years in prison, and fines up to $250,000. In addition, he was required to return all moneys gained from his illegal organ trade, almost half a million dollars.
The money was obtained when Rosenbaum offered kidneys to patients who either didn't qualify to be on the national organ donor list or were very far down the list. He promised them a kidney with a blood type match for a price tag of anywhere from $120,000 to $160,000. The kidneys came from his native Israel, where donors were given a payment of $10,000 despite the fact organ trafficking is also illegal there.
In all, he sold a total of three kidneys. It was when Rosenbaum tried to make a sale of a fourth kidney that his growing business of human organ sales crumbled. He was approached by an undercover agent working on behalf of the FBI. Solomon Dwek was facing jail time for massive bank fraud and agreed to try and catch Rosenbaum selling kidneys on tape.
Dwek told Rosenbaum he had a sick uncle who would soon die without a kidney transplant. Rosenbaum bragged he had facilitated many kidney trades. "I am what you call a matchmaker" he told Dwek. He explained he could convince hospitals to believe the kidney donation was from a compassionate friend so they would do the procedure. He also explained the price was so high because everyone from Israeli visa officials to doctors had to be paid off so they wouldn't tell authorities about the illegal trade.
Rosenbaum's lawyers argued he never put anyone in danger and all the recipients and donors of the kidneys are now leading happy, healthy lives. They also pointed out all organs were willingly given by the paid Israeli donors, and none were forced into donation.
Despite some support for Rosenbaum and the arguments of his lawyers, he pleaded guilty to the sale of the three kidneys and to a single count of conspiracy to broker a kidney sale for the attempted deal with Dwek. His guilty plea and the recorded conversations seal his place in US crime history even before his sentencing, which will occur in February 2012.
About the author:
Elaine Hirsch is kind of a jack-of-all-interests, from education and history to medicine and videogames. This makes it difficult to choose just one life path, so she is currently working as a writer for various education-related sites, and writing about all these things instead.
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