Israel, an Orthodox Jew, was married with two young daughters living in Far Rockaway, NY. He was a devoted husband and loving father and was known for being charitable and kind. He was also very hard working and built himself a successful diamond business called Blue River Inc. where he had an impeccable reputation.
In 1985 a Hassidic jeweler and friend of Israel named “HT” (name has been changed) asked Israel to deposit a bond for him as a favor on one of his frequent business trips to Europe. Unbeknownst to Israel, the bond was stolen. After depositing it and returning back to the U.S., Israel was questioned by FBI at customs about the bond and where it came from. He told the FBI that he had been given the bond by a friend. The FBI told him that he has to cooperate and tape record his friend telling him where it came from and where the money went. Unaware of how dangerous “HT” really was and who was behind this whole scheme, Israel angrily confronted him and expressed his anger for duping him into doing something illegal and pressed him for the names of who was behind this scheme. He tried to convince him to just come clean and tell the FBI the truth. “HT” refused to divulge that information claiming that he feared for his life and if he would talk he would be killed.(* see below) At some point Israel was forced by the FBI to tape record “HT” admitting to something, but it was unsuccessful and it is unclear from the tape exactly what happened. Did his friend discover the tape? Why did it suddenly stop recording? Only “HT” knows the truth.
What is certain is that Israel did not know that “HT” was working directly under another Hassid named “Banda” who was one of the men behind the T-bond scam. According to testimony during the mafia cops trial, Banda was working with criminal mastermind and later the star witness of the mafia cops trial Burt Kaplan. When his friend told Banda about what had happened, the word got back to Kaplan who feared that everything would go bust now and he would end up in big trouble if Greenwald cooperated with the FEDS. Kaplan, whom never even met Israel Greenwald, decided to get rid of him himself. According to his testimony, he did not tell Banda about his plans to kill Israel, he merely said “Give me his information: Let me talk to him, I’ll convince him to go away on a long vacation”.
Kaplan remembered a guy named Frank Santora who he met back in his prison days. Santora had mentioned to him that he had a cop cousin who would do “work” for money. He called Santora and told him he had a problem that had to be dealt with. Santora contacted his cop cousin Louis Eppolito and partner Stephen Caracappa who said “It’ll be easy without a doubt.” and then, using the police database they got all the information they needed to know about Israel Greenwald (his home address, car make, etc.).
On Monday morning, Feb. 10, 1986 the cops and Santora followed Israel as he was driving to work and pulled him over using their badges. They pretended to arrest him citing that someone fingered him as a hit and run and he has to come to the station to clear it up. Israel willingly went with them, not knowing he was being led to his own execution. It was then that they took him to a Brooklyn garage on Nostrand Avenue, belonging to Pete Franzone (a hard working, non-criminal man who was friendly with Santora) where Greenwald was shot and buried.
According to the testimony of the garage owner Pete Franzone, he saw the cops and Santora walk in that Feb. 10, 1986 day with a Jewish man wearing a skullcap. While Louis Eppolito stood guard in his unmarked police car, Caracappa and Santora entered an enclosed garage with the Jewish man. Twenty minutes later Caracappa walked out and left with Eppolito. Santorra then asked Pete to come into that room where he saw Israel Greenwald’s dead body. Santorra told Pete that he must help him bury the body or else he will be killed along with his family. Pete dug, praying that he too won’t be thrown into that grave. Even after Santora was murdered a year later, Pete never divulged his secret. He was terrified for his life. Who would ever believe him that two cops were murderers? He figured that if he talks he would end up being framed for this murder, or worst, murdered himself. He kept this secret for 19 years.
After Kaplan finally agreed to talk in 2005 and admitted that he paid the cops and Santora $30,000 to kill a Jewish jeweler, he was not able to say where the jeweler was killed and buried since he was not given that information from the cops and Santora. (Kaplan couldn’t even recall the Jeweler’s name.) He only knew that he was killed in a garage on Nostrand Avenue. But Nostrand Avenue is several miles long and finding a garage there is like finding a needle in a haystack. (Kaplan also had never even heard of Pete Franzone nor was he aware that Franzone witnessed the murder.) In addition Santora was no longer alive. He was murdered in 1987. It seemed that the Greenwald case would never be solved without a body and further proof.
Investigators doubled there efforts and finally located the original Santora homicide file. It was then that the diligent investigators found what they needed: Frank Santorra’s old phonebook which had Pete Franzone’s contact information under “towing company”. This led to Franzone being questioned by detectives about this two decade old murder and Franzone leading them to where Israel’s body was buried. Kaplan and Franzone’s stories completely corroborated even though the two had never met or even heard of each other in their lives. Franzone became the most important civilian witness in the mafia cops trial and is now living in witness protection program.
In April 2005, after Israel Greenwald’s body was found his family finally buried him in Israel. After 19 years of not knowing what had happened, the family had some sort of closure and a grave.
Further closure and true justice finally came in April 2006 when his killers Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito were finally convicted of his murder and sentenced to life along with 7 other murders.
* Interestingly, 2 years after Israel was murdered, Kaplan hired the cops to kill t”HT” because he feared that he would talk. The convicted cops approached him in a stairwell in Williamsburg and tried to “arrest” him. “HT” knew something was wrong…perhaps he thought the same thing that happened to Greenwald would happen to him. With all his strength he pushed Louis Eppolito (the larger cop) away and Eppolito nearly fell down the stairs. He then ran out screaming “Help, they are trying to kill me!” The cops quickly left and told Kaplan about what had happened. Eppolito joked about how amazed he was that a little man like that can push him away. “HT” ran to Banda in fear. Banda, figuring it was Kaplan behind this, called Kaplan and demanded he leave man alone. Kaplan listened and this “HT” is still alive today. The cops were convicted in April 2006 (along with 8 murders) of “HT’s attempted kidnapping and murder too.
MORE ABOUT ISRAEL GREENWALD
by Michal Greenwald (Eldest Daughter)
Although he only lived 34 short years, Israel accomplished a lot in his short life. To me he was known as “Abba” the Hebrew word for Daddy, and he was the world to me and my sister. I thought it would be appropriate on this site to share with you a bit about the man my father was and the life he lived.
Israel was born to Hungarian holocaust survivors who decided to marry after the war. They each had lost spouses and children in the holocaust and this was their second marriage and chance to start over. They had my aunt Miriam in Hungary and my father, Israel Asher was born three years later in Israel. They named him after his deceased grandfather who perished in the concentration camps. Israel meant the world to them. He was the hope that their name will continue onward, despite their tragic past. In return my father had the utmost respect and love for them, even going so far as to travel to Israel at a moment’s notice later on, if he even heard his parents needed something trivial like their air conditioner fixed.
His parents raised their children in the orthodox Jewish tradition, sending them to Yeshiva. Israel was an extremely bright boy who did very well. He also was very well liked by his peers and was considered a leader. Israel also had a love for animals and (to his mother’s dismay) always made sure to bring home every stray cat and creature.
Israel always had a head for business and from a young age thought of creative ways to make money, from various jobs he took, to different business ideas. At the same time he was very generous with any money he earned and always thought of ways to help others. As a teen he put together a organization that gave interest free loans to people who needed money. He felt that giving people interest free loans was a great way to recycle the money over and over so that many can benefit. As people paid back the loans in small installments, the money went to others who needed it.
Israel, like many yeshiva boys, did not go to university; rather he studied in “Chevron”, a top notch yeshiva that also taught a trade. Israel always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur and his own boss, and in his early 20’s he opened up the first pizza store in his home town, Bnei Brak. It was revolutionary and controversial because no one had ever opened up a pizza store in that neighborhood. Because Bnei Brak is ultra orthodox, the community viewed pizza stores as a forbidden social hangout where men and women can intermingle. Despite the disapproval of some of the more traditional residents the pizza store took off. (Today there are dozens and dozens of pizza stores in Bnei Brak.)
Israel was set up with Leah by a friend when he was 21, and shortly after they got engaged. They were a beautiful couple, young, handsome and excited about their future. Their first child, Michal, was born in 1976 in Israel. Shortly after they decided to move to South Africa to learn the diamond trade from Leah’s father Joseph Gubitz. The Pizza store was left to be managed by others, but eventually they sold it. Israel was a quick study, and 6 months later they decided to move to America, the land of opportunity. There they had their second child Yael in 1977.
Israel began to build his Jewelry business, calling it Blue River Enterprises. Because he was very likable and responsible, his business quickly grew. In addition to being a jeweler, he was always open to new business ideas, such as real estate, and had his hand in many different projects. In 1979 the Greenwald’s purchased their first home, on a quiet street in Far Rockaway in an orthodox community.
Even though Israel continued to meet success in his various businesses, he maintained a very orthodox lifestyle. He prayed three times a day and always attended synagogue on the Sabbath and holidays. He made sure to send his girls to the most orthodox school. In addition, he continued his philanthropic ways and always gave a tremendous amount of charity. In addition to supporting all the local organizations in his community, Israel was known to help friends in need regularly. Whether it was a friend who was just buying his first home and needed help with the down payment, or a woman getting a divorce and needing extra financial support, Israel gave without hesitation. He also supported many poor families regularly, without telling anyone. Israel was not one who sought recognition. To him giving was part of life and an obligation if you were more fortunate. The more successful he was, the more he gave.
Israel was incredibly organized and responsible. He made sure from a young age to have life insurance at all times. He always called home several times a day, and despite his frequent trips abroad, never once did he stay through the weekend. He was always home for the Sabbath.
Israel’s love for animals continued on as an adult too, and aside from the dogs and cats the family always had, he purchased a pet monkey one day, just because his kids asked for one.
Israel was very bright, very ambitious and able to do many things at once. So trusted was he, that he became a diplomat to Liberia since he traveled their often for his jewelry business. It is because of his trusting nature, that he unwittingly got involved in 1985 in transferring a bond for a friend. He never imagined who his friend was involved with and what the scheme was about. When he was put in the terrible position of tape recording his friend, he was terribly conflicted as to what he should do. It was a terrible time period of his life, a no win situation. He hoped that the FEDS would not need him as a witness. At the same time he was angry at his friend for putting him in such a bad position. He talked about picking up and moving his family back to Israel, so he wouldn’t have to be the one to send his friend to jail. He did not know that this position that he was put into would lead to his premature death.
In the end he was killed because the word got back to Burt Kaplan, who feared that if Israel cooperated, his whole scheme would go bust and he’d end up in jail. Kaplan, the man behind the bond scheme, hired the NYPD cops, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, to kill him, thus ending the life of an honest, good person who had a bright future ahead of him and a family who loved him dearly.
Because Israel’s body was never found, the case was not solved until 19 years later, when Kaplan finally decided to talk. As a result Israel’s family was left in the dark about what had happened to their soul patriarch and breadwinner. His disappearance was a catalyst to the family’s demise, starting with their financial ruin due to not being able to collect any death benefits. In addition, many former business associates as well as insurance brokers took advantage of the family’s vulnerable position. In one instance a property in Florida, jointly owned by Israel and an associate, was sold without consent, all profits taken by his partner. In another instance, a house owned by Israel and a carpenter friend was also sold, with Israel’s portion being paid off by the contractor with construction work that was worth a fraction of what the property was worth. Rumors also were abound as to why he disappeared. Some thought he abandoned the family, others came p with even more fantastical theories. Closure only came after 19 years when this case was solved and his body recovered. True closure will be complete when the Greenwald family gets compensated for the horror they experienced and the loss of their hisband and father.