A leader of one of Israel’s most powerful mob families planned hits on his rivals in meetings held at a Burger Ranch at the Azrieli Mall, a grill restaurant in Hatikva, and a nursing home in south Tel Aviv, according to an indictment issued by the Tel Aviv District Court on Monday at a heated hearing.
Eight associates of Shay Musli, reputedly one of the heads of one of Israel’s largest and wealthiest crime families, were indicted for a series of crimes including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and firearms charges.
Musli is not in Israel and has not been indicted in the case.
His brother, Yossi Musli, is one of the reputed heads of the family and was among 20 associates arrested at the beginning of last month, but was later released.
He is currently incarcerated in Rimonim Prison on separate organized crime charges.
The indictment is part of a major organized crime case built almost entirely around the testimony of a state’s witness, himself formerly a top enforcer and confidant of Shay Musli.
The witness and his brother are mentioned repeatedly in the indictment as taking part in the planning and execution of the murders, and were for years well-known and feared figures in the Israeli underworld.
According to the indictment, one of the killings was planned at the Tel Aviv home of the witness, whose identity is banned from publication but who has for well over a year been known to the Musli organization as having turned state’s witness. His brother was murdered in a killing outside Israel in late 2013, in what is believed to be payback for his testimony to police, and to keep the brother himself from becoming a witness.
The indictment goes into the minutia of how Shay Musli and his right-hand man Aviel Wahel allegedly planned the killings.
In addition to the witness’s house, meetings to plan the killings were also held at the Burger Ranch at the Azrieli Mall, the Pinat Hakabab restaurant in the Hatikva neighborhood, and the Gil Hazahav nursing home on La Guardia Street in south Tel Aviv.
According to the indictment, defendant Lior Grinberg was given a stolen pistol and sent to Bat Yam to gun down Bar Cohen in January 2012. Grinberg allegedly shot Cohen to death in a public park in the city and was later paid $50,000 for the murder by Musli.
Cohen, then reputedly an associate of Musli’s blood rival, Moti Hassin, is one of three associates of Hassin allegedly murdered by Musli and his associates as part of an ongoing gang war that has taken the lives of at least 12 people in central Israel in the past few years.
Those three murders form the backbone of a major organized crime case that YAMAR detectives from the Tel Aviv and Central Districts have worked on for the past few years, all while keeping the identity of the state’s witness banned from publication. In addition to the murders, the defendants are suspected of plotting to kill Moti Hassin, and the state’s witness and his brother are suspected of acquiring a sniper rifle which they planned to use to shoot Hassin while he stood on the balcony of his home in Rishon Lezion.
The indictment also goes into detail on how Musli and the witness and his brother acquired prepaid cellphones for the hit team to use during the murder of Ohad Franco and Daniel Samareh, who were shot to death while sitting in a car in Rishon Lezion in February 2012. One of the defendants, Nir Davah, allegedly tracked the victims by attaching a GPS transmitter to a car they used, according to the indictment.
The killing was carried out by three masked shooters, who arrived at the scene in a stolen car with two pistols, including one stolen during a Holon burglary months before the murder. They waited downstairs at the building where Samareh lived with his mom and girlfriend and fired 13 bullets into the two victims before fleeing and torching their getaway car in a sand dune in Holon, the indictment reads.
That killing was what is called a “Red Riding Hood” murder in the Israeli underworld, a murder in which the victim is lured to the scene by an associate and then ambushed.
News that the top Musli associate had turned state’s witness spread like wildfire in south Tel Aviv in late 2013, and once Shay Musli caught word he left the country and has not been back since. He is reputedly living in South Africa and in Romania, where the crime family runs casinos.
During Monday’s hearing, the courtroom became heated as a number of defendants became enraged, shouting at the prosecutor for signing a deal with the former enforcer turned witness, a man known to have allegedly killed more than once in his life.
Grinberg shouted at the prosecutor: “You know who he is, you know! He dismembered bodies, he has blood on his hands,” and was removed from the courtroom temporarily.
Another suspect yelled, “This is all a blood libel! You’re all corrupt; you should all be here, not us!” Moshe Sherman, the attorney for Wahel, asked the judge to allow publication of the witness’s name, saying “there is no one left in Israel who does not know the name of the witness” and that it’s important to the case.
The prosecutor answered that “the fact that the suspects and their families know the witness is far from the same thing as saying that all of the public needs to know who he is.”
Also present at the hearing was Shaul Shati, the father of Yarin Shati, a 17-yearold who disappeared in the fall of 2011 and was later found dead and dismembered in sand dunes outside Rishon Lezion. Police believe the witness and his murdered brother took part in his murder and that of at least two other people.
Attorney Moshe Yochai, who is representing Nir Davah, said in the hearing Monday that Shaul Shati was present in court to ask the judge to allow publication of the names of the killers of his son.
Not long after that, one of the suspects could be heard in a corridor shouting that the state’s witness “shot a teenager with an M-16 and cut his head off, you know this!” At the end of the hearing, the defendants were ordered kept in custody until the conclusion of legal proceedings against them.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 10.
The killings described in the indictment are believed to be part of a mob war between the Musli organization and the Abergil family and their associates. The blood feud began in earnest after the Abergil family began to break apart after the heads of the family, Itzik and Meir Abergil, were extradited to the US to face organized crime charges in 2011. Former associates jumped ship and joined the Musli family, and others set up their own gangs. Hassin was reputedly tasked by the Abergils with keeping the organization together, and allegedly orchestrated a number of hits meant to send a message to Abergil associates and to the Musli family.
The killings mentioned in Monday’s indictment are believed to be payback for those murders, in particular the slaying of Avi David in a Bat Yam steakhouse in 2011. David was a former Abergil associate who left and began working for the Musli organization. Moti Hassin was the chief suspect in that killing, but was acquitted of murder charges in the case in September 2014.