Nick Zemeitus Held on $400,000 Cash Bail

Accused of extorting a local rabbi, Nick Zemeitus appeared in court for a bail hearing today.

One hundred and thirty times.

That’s how many times the Norfolk District Attorney’s office estimates Nick Zemeitus demanded cash from Rabbi Barry Starr in return for his silence.

Each time, if the allegations are true, Starr must have faced a decision: pay up—again—or finally face down his alleged blackmailer. According to Assistant DA Greg Connor, for years, the rabbi—then the beloved spiritual leader of Temple Israel in Sharon—chose the former.

In Dedham Superior Court today, Connor told Judge Douglas H. Wilkins that police had found 130 emails to Starr from Zemeitus’s email address, each one threatening to expose a sexual encounter between Starr and Zemeitus’s underage teen brother—a brother who police confirm didn’t exist. In the version of the story Zemeitus told detectives last year, Zemeitus himself had been the one who answered Starr’s ad for sex on Craigslist.

Nonetheless, his alleged threats over the “little brother” were effective, Connor said. Each email demanded another payout. And in Starr’s assorted financial accounts, Connor said detectives found 130 cash withdrawals, each one matching the demand in each of those emails.

The total amount: nearly $450,000 over two years.

Starr, who was indicted last week on charges of embezzlement and larceny, is said to have used funds from the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund as well as loans from congregants to keep up with the demanded payments. At Thursday’s bail hearing for Zemeitus, indicted on charges of larceny and extortion, the question was: Where did the money go?

Connor told the judge that when police searched Zemeitus’s house last year, his account held $83,000, almost all of it entered as “large cash deposits.”

“What concerns the Commonwealth is that you add up all the other monies, there’s approximately $400,000 we can’t find, and that $400,000 is in cash,” Connor said. In addition, he said, Zemeitus had a long history of skipping out on bail and violating parole, even on charges “as simple as reckless driving and making threats.” Connor asked the judge to continue Zemeitus’s initial bail of $400,000 cash.

Zemeitus’s public defender, Ronald Rice, rebutted that Zemeitus was a lifelong resident of Quincy and Milton. “While the allegations by my brother are troubling,” Rice said, gesturing to Connor, “my client has no place to go, no place he can be squirrelled away.” He added that Zemeitus has “turned his life around” in the past year, entering a sobriety program and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings almost daily in the hopes of regaining custody of his young daughter. “He had no problems until the drugs got hold of him, your honor,” Rice told the judge.

Wilkins was not moved, and ordered Zemeitus held on $400,000 cash bail.

Zemeitus’s girlfriend, Alexa Anderson, fared better. Arraigned on counts of larceny but not extortion, she was released on personal recognizance.

The two stood on opposite sides of the courtroom, Anderson in a beige sweater covered in black gothic crosses, Zemeitus in an oversized white T-shirt and jeans. Zemeitus glanced at her often, but Anderson looked straight ahead. When she left the courtroom, he turned to watch her go. She did not look back.

For previous coverage of this case, read “The Shande of Sharon: The long, strange tale of how a fateful encounter and a shameful secret ruined Rabbi Barry Starr.”