Several high-profile Jewish felons were among the 143 pardons and commutations issued by Donald Trump as he left the White House on Wednesday.
Newly freed this week was Sholam Weiss from Florida who was sentenced to 845 years for racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and transporting stolen goods, after swindling an insurer and its elderly policyholders out of £91 million.
Weiss, 66, fled the US before he could be prosecuted and was sentenced in absentia in 2000. He was eventually extradited from Austria. Jewish lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Jay Sekulow supported his pardon.
Another free man this week is Anthony Lewandowski, a former Google engineer who stole self-driving car secrets and gave it to his new employer Uber, where he became head of the ride-hailing firm’s competitor arm. The judge said it was “the biggest trade secret crime I’ve ever seen”.
Also benefitting from Trump’s waived sentence was Abel Holtz, 86, a former bank chairman who lied to a grand jury, and Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye surgeon and political benefactor once active in Miami’s pro-Israel community, who used his private jet to garner influence.
Together with senior politician Bob Menendez, former chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Melgen was sentenced for bribery, conspiracy, fraud, and violating the Travel Act, after he gave Menendez around £750,000 “to promote Melgen’s personal and business interests”.
Melgen had earlier been convicted of stealing £50 million from Medicare by persuading elderly patients to undergo unnecessary eye treatments, earning a separate 17-year custodial sentence.
Also walking free this week was Aviem Sella, an Israeli citizen indicted in 1986 for supporting US spy Jonathan Pollard, who sold American military secrets to Israel.
Championing Sella’s request for clemency was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netaynahu, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Miriam Adelson, the widow of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who died this month.
On Sella’s release, the White House said “the State of Israel has issued a full and unequivocal apology [for its role in Pollard’s spying]” and that the pardon was granted “to close this unfortunate chapter in US-Israel relations”.
Orthodox Jews also celebrated Eliyahu Weinstein’s freedom, which Dershowitz also supported. A Ponzi schemer, his real estate investment fraud cost victims around £150 million. He also falsely claimed that he had access to blocks of Facebook shares. He was seven years into a 24 year sentence.
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