Police cleared for publication on Wednesday that they arrested three former senior officials of the Yehud Burial Society on Tuesday on suspicion of pocketing thousands of shekels for burial plots that were never allotted. The men are suspected of theft, fraud and money laundering in the alleged scam.
The Tel Aviv District Police conducted an extensive undercover investigation over the past year leading to the arrests. During the investigation, police said they obtained evidence that the three officials received payments for burial plots from dozens of alleged victims, however, the officials allegedly kept the money for themselves and never assigned a burial plot.
The Tel Aviv District Court extended the remand of two suspects by five days on Wednesday, while the third suspect was released to house arrest.
According to police, the customers were from outside of Yehud and paid thousands of shekels for the plots. Some of the alleged victims got wind of the scam when they wanted to bury their loved ones, only to find that there was no plot in their name, police said.
Although dozens of victims are known, police suspect that there are many more people that paid in full for a burial plot but were not assigned one.
Israelis are provided free burials by the National Insurance, but the free plots are largely delegated to multi-tier buildings. If someone prefers to be buried in a traditional grave, they must pay for the limited spaces, which can cost tens of thousands of shekels.
According to a report in Globes, there are 1,250 cemeteries in Israel operated by 600 burial societies.
Burial societies in Israel have repeatedly courted controversy. An undercover Channel 2 report this month recorded multiple cases of burial society officials refusing to bury deceased gay and lesbian people. In June 2015, the burial society of Jerusalem’s Sanhedria cemetery refused to bury the body of a deceased infant, citing their interpretation of Jewish law that would prevent the baby’s parents from attending the funeral.