A husband and wife from Petah Tikva extorted money from construction sites across the city under the cover of a “security” company they ran, Central District police said on Tuesday.
The couple headed a gang that allegedly spent years extorting contractors and land owners, demanding they hire their security company or face the consequences, police said.Victims who did not pay saw their construction sites suffer vandalism and theft; eventually, most ended up paying the security company to “protect” them from themselves, police said.
In addition to theft and vandalism, the suspects also allegedly dumped trash at building sites, siphoned electricity off job sites, squatted on land belonging to their victims, and used heavy equipment to damage building excavation work.
Five suspects have been arrested who face charges of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering, among other offenses.
Police say that extorting contractors is a widespread phenomenon that occurs in every part of Israel. Victims often find that it is cheaper to pay protection money than to spend for repairs or to replace vandalized equipment.
The additional monthly cost is often passed on to the consumer.
Contractor extortion is very similar to that carried out against small business owners across the country, but the illegal take is often much larger because of the money involved in major construction projects.
Payments to the extortionists typically reach tens of thousands of shekels per month.