TRENTON, N.J. — A New York City man was sentenced to 2½ years in prison Wednesday in what experts said was the first federal conviction for profiting from the illegal sale of human organs.
Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, an Israeli native who lives in Brooklyn, pleaded guilty in October to brokering three illegal kidney transplants for New Jersey-based customers in exchange for payments of $120,000 or more.
The 61-year-old showed little reaction to the sentence. He was swarmed by well-wishers who had packed the federal courtroom in Trenton to show their support.
Rosenbaum was arrested in July 2009 in a sweeping federal case that became the largest corruption sting in New Jersey history.
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.
The transplants took place at top US hospitals, including at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
Assistant US Attorney Mark McCarren said Rosenbaum engaged in the practice for up to a decade and made millions by exploiting desperate recipients and paying donors paltry sums.
‘‘The defendant has attempted to portray himself as the ‘Robin Hood’ of kidneys,’’ McCarren said. ‘‘There is only one thing that his story has in common with Robin Hood, and that is, it is fiction.’’
The daylong sentencing hearing featured divergent views of Rosenbaum’s conduct, from a man who said he felt taken advantage of when Rosenbaum paid him just $25,000 and coached him to lie about his kidney donation, to others who said Rosenbaum had saved their lives.
Rosenbaum’s lawyer argued that his client had admitted engaging in the sale of kidneys but did so only to save lives.
‘‘There are no victims here,’’ said Rachel Warshower, who traveled from Brooklyn to support Rosenbaum, whom she called a family friend. ‘‘The donors are happy and the recipients are happy; Izhak Rosenbaum is not the monster the media has made him out to be.’’
US Attorney Paul Fishman said Rosenbaum’s conviction was the first under the federal statute involving the black market sale of kidneys from paid donors.