Levy Itzhak Rosenbaum, a 60-year-old man from Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to trying to illegally arrange a black-market kidney transplant for money. He is the first person ever convicted in the United States for brokering illegal kidney transplants for profit. Prosecutors allege Rosenbaum would buy organs from vulnerable people in Israel for as little as $10,000 and sell them to desperate patients for more than $100,000.
A doctor with Albert Einstein Medical Center testified that Rosenbaum brought as many as 15 pairs of donors and recipients to the hospital for transplants from 1999 to 2002, labeling the secret kidneys-for-pay system “predatory.”
The physician, Radi Zaki, and Beth Duffy, the vice president of health care services at Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, testified separately that Rosenbaum always presented himself as a legitimate facilitator of donor matches for Israeli patients and provided all the correct paperwork for the donor matches.
The daughter of Max Cohen, a kidney recipient who paid Rosenbaum $150,000 to find a donor, called him a “hero.”
Elahn Quick, a 31-year-old who donated his kidney to Max Cohen — after living in Israel for much of his younger life and then reading an ad for kidneys in a New York newspaper written in Hebrew — said he felt betrayed by Rosenbaum and his associates.
Quick said that as he lay on a hospital bed in Minnesota getting anesthesia, just before his four-to-five hour surgery to extract his kidney, he expressed second thoughts to an associate of Rosenbaum’s who stood above him. He asked the man if he could turn back. But that man — whom he called Ido — reassured him he could but then just as quickly let him soon slip into an unconscious state. The next thing he knew, Quick testified, he awoke without his kidney.
Quick said he soon lost contact with Rosenbaum and his associate — although he testified he was paid most of the $25,000 fee. Rosenbaum charged $150,000-$160,000 per transplant.
Rosenbaum was sentenced to two and a half years for brokering three illegal kidney transplants. He could face deportation after he serves his sentence, due to begin in October.
Reminder: To read about how all levels of law enforcement and the transplant industry knew about Rosenbaum’s scheme but did nothing, see here.