escorted by Israeli prison guards in the Jerusalem District Court.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The one-time head of a New York-based Israeli crime organization was arraigned in court on extortion charges on Tuesday, along with eight other suspects, including the manager of an Israeli Premier League soccer team.
Eitan Hiya, 62, stands accused of extorting large amounts of money from two men who have become state’s witnesses against him and his alleged co-conspirators. The case revolves around a wedding hall at the center of the country, whose owner, one of the plaintiffs, told police that Hiya and the other suspects had extorted money from him.
Hiya’s attorneys argued that the wedding-hall owner had conned Hiya and his alleged crime partners into investing large amounts of money in his business, and then proceeded to take the money and flee the country. Police reject this claim.
The soccer club manager, whose name is banned from publication, is accused of involvement in the plan to extort the wedding hall owner, even though he is an old friend of the alleged victim and had previously loaned him money.
Attorney Moshe Yochai, who is representing suspect Alon Leibovitz, criticized police, saying the case demonstrated the police’s tendency to depend on witnesses with shady records.
Yochai also represents Hagai Felician, who was indicted for the Bar-Noar double murder until he was cleared of charges due to a state’s witness having fabricated testimony.
The hearing ended with an eight-day remand extension for Hiya and the soccer team manager.
The arrest on Monday came a couple of weeks after Hiya was taken into custody following an alleged plot to extort a Rishon Lezion woman out of her inheritance.
Hiya was reportedly trying to obtain the inheritance to pay a debt that the woman’s brother, an associate of his, had acquired. The case involved the throwing of a grenade at the woman’s house.
In a subsequent search of Hiya’s residence in Ramat Gan, police found three ceramic bulletproof vests, bomb-making supplies, ski masks, police billy clubs and hundreds of thousands of shekels in cash.
His name first made waves in Israel when he was named the “Godfather of the Israeli mob in the US” for the years he spent running a New Yorkbased Israeli criminal organization that trafficked drugs into and along the East Coast in the ’80s and ’90s. The crime syndicate made money extorting Israeli business owners in the US.
Hiya served time in prison in the US and in Israel.
After returning to Israel in 2003, he began running gambling rackets across the country’s central region. In the years since his return, he has been connected to a number of underworld murders, most of them involving people who testified against him to police.
Also on Tuesday, the National Crime Unit announced that it had arrested three suspects, including two associates of southern mob boss Shalom Domrani, as part of a major extortion and loan-sharking case.