Young Israeli women in dire economic straits were lured into traveling to Turkey to donate their kidneys and other organs on the promise of quick cash, Negev police said Tuesday, adding that the mastermind of the organ-trafficking ring is still on the run.

According to Negev police, the suspect, a man in his 50s from southern Israel, promised girls aged 18 to 20 tens of thousands of dollars to travel to Turkey and undergo transplant surgery.

A number of women underwent the procedure and received the payment, while others backed out at the last minute, police said. They would not say how many women were involved in the scheme, only that so far they have questioned three, including a woman who underwent the surgery, one who traveled to Turkey and backed out at the last minute and an Israeli woman who paid NIS 300,000 to a Turkish hospital to receive a kidney.

The case broke several weeks ago, police said, when a young woman who had traveled to Turkey to donate an organ backed out at the last minute after pressure from her family, and returned to Israel after three days in the country. Her parents contacted police, who questioned the woman upon her return to Israel and began tracking down the suspects who allegedly lured her into the trafficking ring.

Officer Peretz Amar, commander of the Negev subdistrict police, has already been in contact with a few women who agreed to donate their organs but backed out before the surgery, as well as a few who underwent the surgery only to regret the procedure afterward.

“This is a very severe case involving the exploitation of young women in very serious economic distress, who were convinced to travel to other countries and donate their organs, with some having second thoughts at the end of the process, only to realize it was too late,” Amar said Tuesday, after a gag order on the case was lifted.

Police said they have also questioned two doctors suspected of examining the women in Israel, before they traveled to Turkey, in order to determine if they were matches for the recipients.

Amar added that the people involved in the ring, including the brokers and the patients set to receive the organs, were from all over Israel, though the central suspect and the three young women who were questioned are from the South.

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