Bail set at $400,000 for Quincy man accused of blackmailing rabbi

The Patriot LedgerWUIC
May 17, 2015

QUINCY - A judge has set bail at $400,000 for a Quincy man accused of blackmailing a well-known Sharon rabbi for hundreds of thousands of dollars by threatening to expose what he claimed was a sexual relationship between the rabbi and a teenage boy.

Nicholas Zemeitus, of Willard Street, had been held without bail since his arraignment Tuesday in Norfolk Superior Court on charges stemming from the alleged extortion scheme. A judge set bail at a hearing Thursday.

In court documents unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors said that Zemeitus was living in Milton in 2011 when he first threatened to expose Rabbi Barry Starr if the rabbi didn't pay him to keep quiet. Starr resigned last year from his position at Temple Israel of Sharon and faces charges of embezzlement and larceny from the synagogue and will be arraigned at a later date.

Police have said their investigation turned up no evidence of a sexual encounter between Starr and a child.

Prosecutors also named Alexa Anderson, 24, who was living with Zemeitus in Milton, as a co-defendant in the extortion scheme. Anderson was arraigned Thursday on larceny charges and released on her promise to return to court June 23.

Zemeitus faces seven charges of larceny over $250, two charges of receiving stolen property valued over $250, one charge of larceny under $250 and one charge of extortion. Ronald W. Rice, a defense attorney appointed to represent Zemeitus, said Tuesday that he would argue against the $400,000 bail that prosecutors were seeking.

Rice said Zemeitus was surprised when police arrested him Monday at his workplace. "Nothing has happened with this case in a long time," he said. 

Prosecutors say Sharon police were first tipped off about the extortion scheme just over 12 months ago when a member of Temple Israel said that an $18 check written as a donation to Rabbi Starr's discretionary fund had been altered to read $1,800. A few days later, Sharon police fielded a similar complaint and traced the check deposits to a joint account held by Zemeitus and Anderson.

While Sharon police investigated the altered checks and thefts, leaders of the Sharon temple had contacted State Police detectives at the Norfolk County district attorney's office and said they believed Rabbi Starr was being blackmailed.

"Rabbi Starr had approached several congregants over the past few years seeking loans," prosecutors wrote in the court document released Tuesday. "(One) stated that Barry Starr had approached him on March 12, 2014, seeking a loan of $50,000 because he was in trouble."

Starr told the member of his temple that he had already paid the blackmailer about $480,000 and that it would stop after he had paid $500,000, prosecutors said.


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