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Police arrest leading members of Bar-Moha crime ring
By MELANIE LIDMAN AND RON FRIEDMAN
02/24/2011
An eight-month police investigation ends with 10 indicted for being members in a gambling, extortion, loan-sharking ring.
 
An eight-month police investigation reached its end Thursday with the indictment of 10 people suspected of running an organized crime syndicate in the Jerusalem area.

At the head of the organization, according to the indictment, sat Yitzhak Bar Moha, who ran the gang from his cell in Hasharon Prison, where he was serving a sentence for prior convictions. It said Bar Moha’s wife Evelyn set up conference calls to the prison’s public phone booth for this purpose. The gang is alleged to have been involved in loan-sharking, illegal gambling, money laundering and extortion.

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According to the indictment, borrowers were in some instances charged upwards of 200 percent annual interest on their black-market loans, and were violently threatened when they did not pay up.

Police said that some were attacked and beaten or had stun grenades thrown at their homes in an effort to intimidate them.

According to the Tax Authority, which cooperated with Jerusalem District police on the investigation, the ring made hundreds of thousands of shekels a month in profits just from the loans. The indictment stated that the gang’s overall income during the time it was active was in excess of NIS 3.5 million.

The indictment listed dozens of alleged offenses, including conspiracy to commit a crime, tax evasion, possession of illegal firearms, aggravated assault, theft and fraud. Many of the charges were filed under clauses of the Combat Against Crime Organizations Law, a relatively new piece of legislation passed in 2003 to help address a growing phenomenon. Its main aim is to convict senior members of crime rings without having to prove a direct link between them and the criminal activities committed by lower-ranking members.

According to the law, “the head of a crime organization or anyone who fulfills the following roles meant to advance the criminal activities of the organization is liable to 10 years in jail.” It was first put to use in 2008 when the Tel Aviv District Court convicted 12 people of organized crime offenses.

Organized crime in Israel is usually concentrated in the Tel Aviv area and often deals with drug trafficking.

One example is the infamous Abergil crime family; brothers Yitzhak and Meir Abergil were extradited to the US just five weeks ago to face charges of murder, money laundering, drug trafficking and blackmail.

In Jerusalem, organized crime almost exclusively centers on economic crimes like black-market loans and casinos.

Police have been aware of the Bar Moha crime ring for years, although its hierarchy has undergone several changes with the incarceration of some of its leaders.

In January 2004, four members, including Yitzhak Bar Moha and his brother Moshe, were sentenced to seven years for a failed bomb attack against a rival mob family.

“There is a vacuum created when crime bosses go to jail, which means new people come in and we have to start all over,” Jerusalem Police Chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said on Thursday.

Police started a full-time investigation of the Bar Moha ring eight months ago. In September, they had enough of a picture of its hierarchy to begin gathering intelligence on specific suspects.

In the course of the investigation, police interviewed more than 200 people, including members of the gang, borrowers and others.

Investigators also seized 10 cars, four homes and hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash, together worth more than NIS 6 million.

The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office asked the court to keep all the suspects under arrest until the conclusion of legal proceedings, claiming they posed a danger to the public. The court agreed, but released three of the suspects, including Evelyn Bar Moha, to house arrest.

The court also approved the seizure of cars and real estate properties belonging to the suspects until the end of legal proceedings.
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