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Quincy man sentenced to prison for blackmailing rabbi

A Quincy man was sentenced Friday in to four to five years in prison for extorting more than $450,000 from a longtime Sharon rabbi in a blackmail scheme that involved threatening to accuse him of having sex with teenage boys.

Superior Court Judge Beverly Cannone also ordered Nicholas Zemeitus, 31, placed on three years probation after his release from prison, according to a spokesman the Norfolk County district attorney’s office.

Zemeitus pleaded guilty last month to extortion and larceny charges for blackmailing Barry Starr, the longtime rabbi of Temple Israel in Sharon who resigned his position last year after it was revealed that he had been leading a secret life.


After members of the synagogue told police last year that checks they wrote to the Temple Israel’s Rabbi Discretionary Fund had been altered, in some instances from $18 to $1,800, Sharon police discovered that the money was deposited into accounts belonging to Zemeitus and his wife.

Police also found e-mails from Zemeitus to Starr, threatening to publicly accuse him of having sex with teenage boys if he didn’t pay hush money.

Zemeitus said he hatched the blackmail plan after he arranged on Craigslist to have a sexual encounter with an older woman and was instead greeted at the door by Starr, who was dressed as a woman. He said he was upset and Starr gave him $100 to keep quiet.

Authorities found no evidence that Starr had sex with minors. Starr was charged last year with larceny and embezzlement for allegedly raiding the temple’s discretionary fund to pay Zemeitus. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.