(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC)
A Beersheba crime boss and three associates were indicted on a series of organized crime charges on Monday, in an indictment that details how they made millions allegedly waging a campaign of terror on gamblers who ran late on their payments.
Spanning 38 pages, the indictment describes “casino houses” run by mob patsies, enforcers who strong-armed gamblers, a horse ranch bingo parlor on the outskirts of Beersheba and a local cab driver who sold his taxi cabs and fled the country after falling in debt to the gangsters.
The indictment filed at the Beersheba District court on Monday names Moshe Reuben, 29, as the head of a criminal organization that ran gambling houses and an online gambling website, loaning money to players who were charged heavy interest on delinquent debts.
In one passage in the indictment, prosecutors detail how one gambler, a Beersheba cab driver named only as “S,” rang up tens of thousands of shekels in debt to Reuben’s gang, and was repeatedly threatened by Reuben’s alleged top enforcer, Yoni Shabtayev. At one point, after being told he had less than 24 hours to pay his debts or else, “S” took out a loan from rival Beersheba criminals in order to cover the loan. Still unable to get the full amount that he owed, “S” finally sold both of his taxi cabs and fled Israel. Since then, his family has been repeatedly threatened by the gang, the indictment reads.
The indictment also details how the gang ran nine separate gambling houses in the city, each of which was registered to a “kof
” (Hebrew for “monkey”), the underworld slang for people who agree to put criminal assets in their own name due to intimidation. Even on the occasions that they were arrested, the home owners would tell police they were the ones running the houses, helping Reuben and the case avoid prosecution.
The case covers the years 2011-2014, much of which Reuben spent behind bars on a previous charge, until his release in August 2013. From 2011 until 2013 he allegedly ran the operation from inside prison, and his associates made payments to his wife and family and placed money in his prison commissary.
Police said that Reuben was highly cautious, not only using “kofim
” as front men, but also refusing to talk on cellphones, receiving all of his messages and giving orders in person with his associates or by way of his wife.
Other business interests mentioned in the report are a bingo parlor called the Horse Ranch Bingo, allegedly run out of a building near the southern entrance to Beersheba by defendant Amir Ben- Shmuel. The bingo parlor reportedly had full-time staff, including waitstaff, bouncers and dealers.
Over the past year, the gang has allegedly also been extorting other local criminals, threatening them to stop running their card games and to move all their operations to a website Reuben ran called “Gobet247.com,” a site that brought in over 1.8 million shekels over the course of eight months this past year.
On Monday Reuben and three top associates were charged with crimes including extortion, money-laundering, conspiracy and being part of an organized crime operation.
Reuben has been in custody since April, when he was arrested along with 78 other suspects in a district-wide operation held by Southern District police. The operation was unprecedented in its scope, police said, adding that 450 officers took part in the raids.