- Michael Cohen is being sent to the federal prison in Otisville, New York, after pleading guilty to various white collar crimes.
- FCI Otisville is a prison of choice for white collar criminals. It’s is where Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino are serving time.
- Forbes once ranked it one of America’s 10 “cushiest prisons.”
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Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, and President Donald Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen walk into a prison.
They enjoy a bowl of matzo ball soup and wait until their sentences are over.
No really. This isn’t a joke. Those three controversial figures are all spending time in FCI Otisville, a correctional institution in upstate New York once ranked by Forbes as one of America’s 10 “cushiest prisons.”
Between two different federal investigations, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, bank fraud, lying to congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal, and campaign finance violations related to paying off two women who said they had affairs with Trump – the latter of which he said he did at Trump’s direction.
US District Judge William Pauley agreed back in December to recommend Cohen to serve his sentence in Otisville, at his attorney’s request. The Bureau of Prisons, which ultimately determines prison assignments, agreed with the recommendation and ordered that he arrive at FCI Otisville on Monday, according to The New York Times.
Cookouts on holidays and matzo ball soup in the commissary
Otisville has a reputation as a prison of choice for white-collar criminals. It has a medium-security designation, which means few violent inmates are imprisoned there, and is relatively small – it has a capacity of 513. The prison also has a recreation center with cardio machines, horseshoes, and tennis courts, according to NBC News.
Cookouts with hamburgers, hot dogs, watermelon, and potato salad are held on Memorial Day and Independence Day, according to The New York Post. And in recent years, the prison’s store has sold oysters and rib steak, according to the Post, although those items don’t appear on the institution’s latest commissary list.
Because of that reputation, the prison has attracted figures like Kenneth I. Starr – the former financial adviser of Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, and Sylvester Stallone – who served for seven years after stealing from his clients. Sholom Rubashkin is another high-profile former inmate: He ran a kosher meat-producing plant and served eight years of his sentence before Trump commuted it.
Otisville was also the first-choice prison for Bernie Madoff, who was sentenced to 150 years for various types of financial fraud. Madoff’s request was denied, according to Forbes, because the camp doesn’t allow prisoners with more than 10 years to serve. Madoff would have to wait 140 years for a transfer.
McFarland and Sorrentino are currently serving their sentences in Otisville, for wire fraud and tax fraud, respectively.
- REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Because of Otisville’s proximity to the predominantly Jewish towns of Kiryas Joel and Monsey, it’s also become a prison of choice for convicts who are observant Jews. The majority of the prison’s inmates are Jewish, according to The New York Times.
The prison has Passover seders, and its schedule is structured around Jewish holidays. Its daily prayer services are run by “a Hasidic man from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who is locked up for arson and corporate fraud,” according to the Times. And its commissary allows inmates to purchase buy kosher matzo ball soup, beef cholent, gefilte fish, rugelach, and other food traditional to Jews of European heritage. It even sells kippas for $6.
“Hey, it’s not Zabar’s, and it’s a little overpriced,” one former inmate, Lawrence Dressler, told the Times. “But what do you want? It’s prison.”
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