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Stein v. World-Wide Plumbing Supply Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. New York

December 2, 2014

RIVKA STEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WORLD-WIDE PLUMBING SUPPLY INC., MOSHE WEISS (a/k/a MOSES WEISS, a/k/a MOSHE WEISZ), YOEL WEISS (a/k/a JOEL WEISS, a/k/a DAVID WEISS, a/k/a DAVID STERN, a/k/a JOE WEISS, a/k/a WIZTEL USA, INC.), PEARL WEISS, CHAIM LEFKOWITZ, SURI LEFKOWITZ (a/k/a SARAH WEISS LEFKOWITZ), GEDALIA DANIEL KATZ (a/k/a DANIEL KATZ), BARUCH WEISS, SIRKI EHRMAN (a/k/a SIRKY EHRMAN, a/k/a SIRKA WEISS EHRMAN), RUCHIE WEISS (a/k/a RACHEL GOLDA WEISS), ABRAHAM BERGER (a/k/a ABE BERGER), BURTOLUCCI'S RISTORANTE, LLC, BERTOLUCCI'S CATERING CORP., AND JOHN DOES NOS. 1-5, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Rivka Stein, Plaintiff: Vincent Filardo, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Mishcon de Reya New York LLP, New York, NY; Daniel Mandell, Mishcon de Reya, New York, NY.

Pearl Weiss, Defendant, Pro se, Brooklyn, NY.

For Chaim Lefkowitz, Suri Lefkowitz, also known as Sarah Weiss Lefkowitz, World-Wide Plumbing Supply Inc., Defendants: Franklyn H. Snitow, LEAD ATTORNEY, Snitow Kanfer Holtzer & Millus, LLP, New York, NY; Alan Victor Klein, Snitow Kanfer & Holtzer LLP, New York, NY; Elliot Jeffrey Rosner, Snitow, Kanfer, Holtzer & Millus LLP, New York, NY.

Gedalia Daniel Katz, also known as Daniel Katz, Defendant, Pro se, Brooklyn, NY.

Baruch Weiss, Defendant, Pro se, Toronto, Ontario.

Sirki Ehrman, also known as Sirky Ehrman, also known as Sirka Weiss Ehrman, Defendant, Pro se, Chicago, IL.

Ruchie Weiss, also known as Rachel Golda Weiss, Defendant, Pro se, Brooklyn, NY.

For Yoel Weiss, also known as Joel Weiss, also known as David Weiss, also known as David Stern, also known as Joe Weiss, also known as Witzel USA, INC., Defendant: Jeffrey R. Berke, LEAD ATTORNEY, Berke & Berke, New York, NY.

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MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Brian M. Cogan, United States District Judge.

This action, in which plaintiff brings civil RICO claims predicated on violations of various human trafficking prohibitions contained in Chapter 77 of Title 18 of the United States Code, is before me on motions to dismiss by four of the named defendants. Plaintiff has filed an Amended Complaint against 13 individuals and entities, as well as a number of John Does. The bulk of the Amended Complaint centers on the conduct of Yoel Weiss, plaintiff's husband. Yoel's uncle and aunt, defendants Chaim and Suri Lefkowitz, along with World-Wide Plumbing Supply Inc., have moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint against them. Also before me is defendant Gedalia Daniel Katz's (with the others, the " moving defendants" ) motion to dismiss. The motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The facts below are taken from the Amended Complaint and deemed true for the purpose of deciding the pending motions.

In July 2008, plaintiff married Yoel Weiss in a religious (but not civil) ceremony, which triggered the series of events that gives rise to the Amended Complaint. Yoel Weiss is the nephew of moving defendants Chaim and Suri Lefkowitz, and Chaim and Suri are the principal owners of moving defendant World-Wide. Plaintiff alleges that immediately after her marriage to Yoel, he and some of his family members, including Suri, engaged in an " unrestrained campaign of abuse and harassment" against her, including " repeated rapes, beatings, torture, threats of the same, forced servitude, peonage, and -- subsequent to that time -- threats against

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Plaintiff's children." According to plaintiff, this was part of a " scheme to control Plaintiff and prevent her from escaping."

Most of the alleged abuse came from plaintiff's husband, Yoel Weiss. Yoel repeatedly beat and raped plaintiff. Additionally, Yoel would confine her to a small area of the home they shared with Yoel's parents, Moshe and Pearl Weiss, and his siblings, Ruchie Weiss and Sirky Ehrman. For an eight-month period in 2011, Yoel granted plaintiff permission to leave the house on only three occasions. Chaim and Suri are also alleged to have participated in a conspiracy to falsely imprison plaintiff. In particular, Suri would " check on" plaintiff at her home and constantly remind her that plaintiff's home was wired with audio and video surveillance, and that plaintiff should not attempt to leave the premises.

From about July 2007 to December 2010, plaintiff resided with Yoel Weiss at 1621 East 27th Street in Brooklyn, New York. According to plaintiff, this house (the " Residence/Warehouse" ) was also used as a commercial warehouse for the distribution and resale of stolen goods, i.e., an illegal fencing operation. The Amended Complaint details the illegal fencing operation, which relabeled and repackaged stolen merchandise that had been procured by " members of underworld crime organizations, including the so-called Polish Mafia," from hijacked commercial trailers. Defendants would then ship the repackaged merchandise to " locations both inside and outside the State of New York." As principal owners of the illegal fencing operation, Chaim, Suri and Yoel would inspect the stolen merchandise and meet with the sellers and potential buyers of the goods. Cash and proceeds of the illegal fencing operation were laundered through defendants World-Wide, Chaim, Suri, Katz, Sirky Ehrman, Moshe Weiss, Pearl Weiss, Ruchie Weiss and John Does Nos. 3-5. Katz also participated in the illegal fencing operation by maintaining personal and corporate banking accounts for the financial transactions of the organization, as well as by enabling Yoel to make illicit purchases using credit cards held in Katz's name.

Chaim and Suri, along with others, forced plaintiff to work 16 hours a day monitoring the workers employed by the illegal fencing operation, but refused to pay her for her labor. In addition, from about March 2009 to June 2009, Yoel forced plaintiff to work at his restaurant, Pizza Express, which was allegedly " operated, at least in part, to assist in the laundering of the proceeds from the illicit fencing operation." He never paid plaintiff for her work, and when plaintiff asked for payment, he threatened her with bodily harm. Similarly, Yoel forced plaintiff to work without compensation at another restaurant, Burtolucci's Ristorante, LLC, which Yoel had purchased using proceeds from the fencing operation.[1]

DISCUSSION


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