(photo credit: Israeli Police Spokesperson)
Two of the most notorious men in the country, Yitzhak Abergil and his brother Meir, left on Wednesday for Los Angeles, to stand trial on charges that include ordering a murder, money-laundering, extortion and trading in Ecstasy.
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According to Israel’s extradition law, and after gaining US consent, the brothers and three other members of their gang will serve out their prison terms in Israel, if convicted.
The Abergils and three members of their Tel Aviv based crime family, Sasson Barashi, Moshe Malul and Israel Oziva, were picked up at around noon by the Prisons Service’s Nahshon intervention and conveyance unit and driven to a secluded airstrip that is usually reserved for Israeli and foreign VIPs. The Nahshon unit also dispatched decoy cars to foil any attempts to help the suspects escape or to kill them.
Cuffed and chained by their wrists and ankles, the five men were marched to a waiting jet plane belonging to the United States Marshals Service, which took off at 2:30 p.m. The only other passengers were their American guards.
Although Meir Abergil fought the extradition tooth and nail during the judicial proceedings in the Jerusalem District Court, his attorney Avi Amiram told The Jerusalem Post
that his client was in a good mood and “ready to face the proceedings in the United States.” Ever since the district court approved the extradition, “he has wanted to return to the US to face the matter,” the attorney said.
Amiram said that as soon as Meir Abergil reached Los Angeles, where the trial of the five is due to take place in the Central District Court of California, he would meet with his American attorneys for the first time, to review the prosecution’s case against him. He will also begin trying to raise money, which could amount to several million dollars, to bail himself out of jail.
The 77-page California indictment includes 32 charges. Yitzhak Abergil, the leader of the crime family, will face 11 and Meir, the crime family’s money-manager, six.
According to the indictment, Abergil, his brother Barashi and others took money embezzled from Tel Aviv’s Trade Bank Ltd. by Esther Alon, who was deputy-director of the investment department, to repay the estimated NIS 400 million in gambling debts of her brother Ofer Maximov.
Yitzhak Abergil took over Maximov’s debts, forced businessmen in Israel and the US to accept and then immediately return loans and in that way was able to launder the money he received from Alon.
In another affair, Yitzhak Abergil and Malul allegedly began trafficking in narcotics and ordered the murder of gang member Sami Atias, whom they accused of trying to steal money from them. Malul allegedly ran a drug trafficking operation in Southern California with the help of a Los Angeles street gang known as the Vineland Boys. The suspects allegedly conspired with a member of the gang to kill Atias.
According to Yediot Aharonot
, US authorities may have difficulty finding sufficient evidence to convict Yitzhak Abergil and Malul of the conspiracy charge. The paper reported that there is only one witness who was close enough to the suspects to pin the murder on them. That witness is Gabi Ben-Haroush, who had served prison time with Abergil in Israel and had become close to him. Ben-Haroush later moved to the US.
A few years ago, he testified as a state’s witness in the trial of
another Israeli drug trafficker, but so far has not given evidence
against Abergil or Malul.
Recently, Ben-Haroush was arrested and indicted, apparently in the hope
that he could be pressured into accepting a plea bargain in return for
testifying against Abergil and Malul.