JERUSALEM (JTA) – A judge in Jerusalem rejected a plea deal between prosecutors and Yona Metzger and sentenced the former Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel to 4 1/2 years in jail on fraud and other charges.
The sentence imposed by the Jerusalem District Court judge was more than the 3 1/2 years under the plea bargain signed in January but less than the maximum seven years.
Under last month’s deal, Metzger pleaded guilty to fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses.
Metzger will be the first Israeli chief rabbi to serve jail time on corruption charges. He is scheduled to begin his prison sentence on May 3 at Nitzan Prison in Ramle.
The judge, Moshe Yoad Hacohen, said in his ruling that he felt that he needed to increase the sentence due to Metzger’s high public position, The Times of Israel reported.
The rabbi was charged in October 2015 with fraud, theft, conspiracy, breach of trust, money laundering, tax offenses and accepting bribes. Metzger was accused of accepting nearly $2.6 million in bribes — keeping nearly $2 million for himself while paying the rest to accomplices and charitable organizations.
Metzger was accused of profiting from donations directed to charitable causes and taking bribes to sway his opinion on matters he decided as chief rabbi.
He completed his 10-year term as chief rabbi in July 2013. Metzger was arrested and questioned a month before his term ended and released.