After initially being arrested and brought up on state charges for engaging in prostitution with a child and endangering the welfare of a child, Rabbi Aryeh Goodman, the former executive director of East Brunswick Chabad, was charged with a federal child-sex-trafficking violation. If convicted he will face a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence and a maximum term of life imprisonment.
Already a registered sex offender from a previous case in 2013 involving a 12-year-old boy, Goodman, 35, turned himself in to the East Brunswick Police on Feb. 6. He was later released pending his court appearance.
The complaint alleges that Goodman responded to a website advertisement to have sex with a 17-year-old girl. “On or around February 1, 2018,” the complaint states, he traveled to an unnamed East Brunswick hotel, “paid to engage in commercial sex acts,” and then “engaged in sex acts” with the victim. Goodman offered to pay for an additional 30 minutes with the girl, the complaint alleges, as well as to purchase her a new cell phone. The authorities later found text messages on the victim’s phone in which the rabbi asked her to meet him in New York.
When law enforcement officials approached Goodman and asked to speak with him about the girl, the complaint states he “spontaneously uttered: ‘I only went there for a massage, I did nothing wrong, she looked young and I hope she is ok!’”
Goodman was arraigned on April 10 at a hearing held in federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark. He was then remanded to federal custody until a bail determination can be made. During a hearing earlier that morning before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Toto in New Brunswick, Middlesex County assistant prosecutor Alexandra Papalia told the court it was expected the case would be dismissed at the local level now that it is being handled by the office of the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.
The U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman William Skaggs told NJJN the office never comments on the reasons it has taken over cases. He also said he could not comment on where Goodman is being held because incarceration is handled by the U.S. Marshals Service. Goodman’s New Brunswick attorney, Josh Altman, told NJJN that as of April 11 his client was still in custody, but that he couldn’t comment further on the case.
In 2006 Goodman and his wife, Ora Malka, launched Chabad of East Brunswick on Lexington Avenue, which focused on education, operating the Chai Early Childhood Center and the Chai Central Hebrew School for children ages 6-14.
Chabad of East Brunswick operated under the auspices of Chabad House-Lubavitch Inc. at Rutgers University until the 2013 case. The Hebrew school, previously run by Goodman, remains open under the sole direction of Ora Malka Goodman, who also continues to run the early childhood center and women’s group that have always been under her auspices. They are not affiliated with Rutgers Chabad or with Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters in Brooklyn or its Morristown-based seminary, the Rabbinical College of America.
In January 2013, Goodman was extradited to Pennsylvania, where he pled guilty to two counts of indecent assault of a person under 13 years of age. Those offenses involved complaints regarding several incidents of a sexual nature with a 12-year-old boy, who accused Goodman of the acts during the summer of 2001 while the rabbi was a counselor at Camp Menachem, a Chabad facility in Lackawaxen Township, Pa.
The original indictment charged him with 12 counts; he pled guilty to two, and the rest were dismissed. In October 2015, Goodman was sentenced in Pike County, Pa., to 11 to 23 months in prison, and the terms of the sentencing included completing a sex offender counseling course and refraining from having contact with the victim or his family. NJJN was unable to determine how much time Goodman served in prison.
After Goodman was arrested for the most recent incident, Chabad at Rutgers spokesperson Karen Kessler told NJJN that it has “absolutely no affiliation with the individual charged, nor any knowledge of the incident in question.” Chabad at Rutgers, she said, severed its ties with Goodman after the first incident in 2013, adding, “Anyone can call themselves Chabad.”
Kessler was asked to comment on a report received by NJJN from a parent whose daughter lived in the Chabad women’s dormitory from 2012-2017. The former student said that Goodman frequently attended Shabbat services and stayed in the men’s dormitory.
“We do not take attendance nor have a sign in sheet for services,” said Kessler. “We cannot definitively say whether he attended a service in past years.”
The rabbi was one of 30 men who allegedly paid to have sex with the girl, but the only one charged by federal authorities. Co-defendants Gabriella Colon, 18, and Richard Ortiz, 23, both of the Bronx, were also initially arrested on state charges — 11 criminal counts, including human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child, criminal restraint, and a number of child pornography offenses, including the manufacturing, distribution, and possession of pornography — and remanded to the Middlesex County Jail. Those charges are expected to be dismissed and replaced on the federal level with two counts of sex trafficking of a child and one count of transporting a minor in interstate commerce for the purpose of prostitution, which is punishable by a potential maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Both charges carry a potential $250,000 fine.
The federal complaint alleges Colon used her friendship with the Lancaster, Pa., teen to convince her to visit Colon in New York. After arriving, the girl learned that Colon was prostituting herself to support herself and her boyfriend, Ortiz. Colon and Ortiz allegedly forced the girl to engage in prostitution at multiple hotels throughout Middlesex, Bergen, and Essex counties, announced U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
They allegedly took the girl to an unnamed hotel in New Jersey, where they took sexually explicit photographs of her, then posted them and advertised her sexual services on Backpage.com, a classified advertising website with a controversial adult section. The girl was transported back and forth to customers who responded to the ad, one of whom was Goodman.
Backpage.com, which had been accused of promoting the sex trafficking of children by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and was the subject of an investigation into human trafficking by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, was seized by the federal Department of Justice on April 6.