(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Extradition proceedings for alleged Internet scammer and Israeli citizen Harry Amar began in the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday.
Amar, 38, is set to be extradited to the US on allegations that he participated in a transnational fraud and blackmail network that stole millions of dollars and euros from companies around the world.
The extradition proceedings come as the Israel Police in coordination with the FBI arrested 20 Israelis on March 1 on suspicion of participating in the network.
Amar is charged with wire fraud, the District of Columbia US District Attorney’s Office said on March 1.
Five other Israelis living in the US have also been indicted on charges related to the alleged fraud network: Ori Saadon, 53, Itzhak Salama, 40, Golan Chkechkov, 39, Michael Admon, 50, and Haviv Arazi, 27.
The District Attorney’s Office described an unlicensed money distribution operation called a “Hawala network.” The US Attorney’s Office said the FBI in an undercover operation transmitted funds through the alleged network to discover it.
US Attorney Channing D. Phillips alleged an “interconnected web of money launderers, fraudsters and individuals that aided and abetted their criminal activities.”
“The defendants in the cases being unsealed today are accused of taking part in schemes in the United States and abroad, costing victims millions of dollars. The investigation demonstrates the importance of international cooperation amongst law enforcement in combating fraud and money laundering on a global basis,” Phillips said.
An Israel Police official who spoke about the case on condition of anonymity said on Sunday that it is good that Amar will be extradited to face US charges of scamming US companies. “Over there it is a federal offense. This means he could be charged much more severely.”
The 20 suspects the Israel Police arrested on March 1 allegedly posed as executives of companies and provided creditors with fraudulent bank accounts. While police said the fraud network’s operational center was in Israel, it fanned out into a large transnational network. The suspects used computer platforms to falsely represent themselves as representatives of foreign companies, making tens of millions of dollars and euros in transfers to Israel.
The suspects are said to have used straw men with forged documents to open bank accounts for fictitious companies, protecting their collaborators abroad by means of blackmail and extortion.
The Israel Police Intelligence and Investigations Division said at the time of the arrests that Israel is becoming a center for this type of online fraud.
“These international scams, known as ‘social engineering’ and performed in various ways, are an international fraud method which is gaining momentum in recent years,” the division said, adding that the crimes are “creating unprecedented damage to the image of the State of Israel as a center for exporting these types of fraud offenses.”