Fact Check: NO Evidence Of Human Trafficking In Tunnels Under NYC Synagogue

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: NO Evidence Of Human Trafficking In Tunnels Under NYC Synagogue Tunnel Empty

Does a tunnel discovered by authorities under a New York City synagogue in early January 2024 prove that human trafficking was taking place there? No, that's not true: There's no evidence to support such a claim. The New York City Police Department stated that it's not "looking into anything of that nature," and the New York City Department of Buildings confirmed that "the tunnel was found to be empty ..."

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Instagram by _jospeakstruth on January 9, 2024. The post's caption said:

Let's keep the same energy we have for everybody else for this too. The fact that NYPD went in should tell us that this is something major! Typically, that particular community has their own police force.

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Thu Jan 11 21:21:43 2024 UTC)

The text in the post's graphic says:

Whats up with those underground tunnels in Crown Heights? Don't tell me that it was to still have service during "covid" because plandemic was put on pause and they trying to slowly press play again. Why the tunnels? It is human trafficking? It is for bunkers? Will a false flag hit NYC soon? I am shocked NYPD even stepped foot in that community cause.... but something in the milk ain't clean. Buckle up because we going for a ride! P.S are we allowed to talk about this or nah?

The tunnel

The tunnel or tunnels came to light during an incident at a historic synagogue in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. A police report provided to Lead Stories on January 11, 2024, shows that officers of the New York Police Department (NYPD) arrested nine people and took three others into custody during a dispute at Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters on January 8, 2024.

The conflict within the Orthodox Jewish movement arose over an unauthorized tunnel dug under the synagogue.

The investigation

Once authorities became aware of the unpermitted excavation work, the NYPD and the Department of Buildings conducted an investigation, finding no evidence of human trafficking as suggested in the Instagram post. In a January 11, 2024, phone interview, an NYPD spokesperson said its investigators weren't looking into such charges:

If there was an ongoing investigation that would be there [in the police report]. But there isn't. ... Didn't say anything in regards to that.

The charges in the police report included:

  • Criminal mischief
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Obstructing governmental administration
  • Attempted hate crime
  • Attempted reckless endangerment
  • Disorderly conduct

Andrew Rudansky, press secretary for the Department of Buildings, provided this statement regarding its investigation at the synagogue in a January 10, 2024, email to Lead Stories. It said:

The safety of our fellow New Yorkers is our highest priority at the Department of Buildings. We have been on-site in Crown Heights since yesterday [January 9, 2024] morning to investigate the illegal excavation work found underneath the buildings, and its impacts on the neighboring structures. As a result of this extensive investigation, we have issued emergency work orders to stabilize the buildings above the tunnel, vacate orders in parts of the buildings to ensure occupant safety, and enforcement actions against the property owners for the illegal work. We will continue to monitor the progress of this emergency stabilization work, and if necessary, we are ready to take additional actions that may be required in the interest of public safety.

Additionally, no evidence of human trafficking was found at the site, the email said:

The tunnel was found to be empty other than dirt, tools and debris from workers.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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