Black Market Organ Sales Poses Threat Towards Public Health

Last Thursday, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum (Isaac Rosenbaum), an Isralei citizen living in New York, admitted to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for payments of more than $120,000. He has been charged with three counts of acquiring, receiving and otherwise transferring human organs for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation; and one count of conspiracy to do the same.

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While this is not technically a scam in the news right now I’m treating it as such. What a lot of people don’t realize is that by purchasing organs and health treatment via the black market it’s putting threat towards public health. As U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman states, black market deals “…reserves lifesaving treatment for those who can best afford it at the expense of those who cannot. We will not tolerate such an affront to human dignity.”

Rosenbaum admitted that from January 2006 through February 2009, he conspired with others to provide a service, in exchange for large payments, to individuals seeking kidney transplants by obtaining kidneys from paid donors. Specifically, Rosenbaum admitted to arranging three transplants on behalf of New Jersey residents that took place in December 2006, September 2008 and February 2009. Rosenbaum admitted that he was paid approximately $120,000, $150,000 and $140,000, respectively on behalf of these three recipients.

Rosenbaum’s kidney business was exposed through the use of cooperating criminal defendant Solomon Dwek and an undercover FBI agent (the “UC”) who was posing as an employee of Dwek and who represented to Rosenbaum that her uncle was in need of a kidney transplant. Dwek and the UC first met with Rosenbaum in mid-February 2008 at which time Rosenbaum informed them that “[i]t’s illegal to buy and sell organs,” but assured them that “I’m doing this a long time.” Rosenbaum explained to Dwek and the UC that he would help the recipient and the donor concoct a fictitious story to make it appear that the transplant was the product of a genuine donation and that he would be in charge of babysitting the donor upon the donor’s arrival from overseas. Rosenbaum also informed Dwek and the CW that he would charge $150,000 to arrange the transplant, explaining that the high price was due in part to payments that would be made to individuals in Israel for their assistance in locating the donor.

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Rosenbaum met with Dwek and the UC again in August 2008, at which time Rosenbaum required that a blood sample be taken from the UC’s uncle to ensure a donor with the appropriate blood type was located. Rosenbaum related that he had an associate he paid in cash who would take the blood sample, and reiterated that he would help coordinate the cover story between the recipient and donor, assuring them that “so far I’ve never had a failure.” During the meeting, Rosenbaum informed Dwek and the UC that the price had risen to $160,000. He also accepted four blank checks totaling $10,000 from Dwek as a down payment and informed Dwek that the checks would be made payable to a charitable organization, the name of which Rosenbaum would fill in on the checks before depositing them.

At a July 2009 meeting, Rosenbaum informed the UC that he had been arranging kidney transplants like the one to be done on behalf of her uncle for a period of 10 years, the most recent only two weeks earlier.

During his guilty plea, Rosenbaum admitted he had informed the FBI agent and the three kidney recipients that he could locate individuals who were willing to donate their kidneys in exchange for money. Rosenbaum admitted he typically located individuals in Israel willing to be paid for giving up their kidneys and that he would be responsible for arranging the paid donors’ travel to the United States as well as their accommodations in the United States before and after the transplant surgery. Rosenbaum admitted that he arranged for blood samples to be drawn from the potential recipients so that appropriate donors could be located. He also acknowledged that he assisted each paid donor and recipient with fabricating cover stories in order to fool hospital employees into believing that the transplant in question was the product of a genuine donation.

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Each of the charges to which Rosenbaum pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Rosenbaum also agreed to forfeit approximately $420,000 by the date of sentencing – consisting of the $410,000 he accepted for brokering the transplants and the $10,000 down payment he accepted from Dwek –Source.

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